Free virtual 4-H camp scheduled for Clark County kids

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Caption
The onset of the coronavirus pandemic caused them to have to take a different approach this year

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

With the traditional 4-H camp among the many annual summer activities canceled due to coronavirus, a group of Clark County youth have planned a virtual version online from June 22-25.

“Camp is such an important part of our lives,” counselor Thomas Edwards said. “I have met some of my best friends through this experience, and I hope the kids enjoy this slice of 4-H camp and the opportunity to see people they haven’t seen for months.”

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To be conducted via the videoconference service Zoom, the virtual camp is free and open to all kids 8-13 (as of Jan. 1) in Clark County, including those not in 4-H.

“I am extremely proud of Clark County’s 4-H camp counselors,” said Ohio State Extension educator Patty House, the local director of 4-H and the camp in the county where 4-H began in 1902.

Registration, required for security purposes, is open through Saturday at go.osu.edu/clark4hvirtualcamp.

Registrants will be eligible to pick up an optional box of supplies from the extension office at 3130 E. Main Street in Springfield from 4-7 p.m. Friday or 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Monday.

“The boxes will be assembled for campers to utilize ready-to-go supplies for some of the activities planned,” House said. “A supply list provided with online registration confirmation will enable families to collect household items and food ingredients not included in the virtual camp boxes, and families that do not want to pick up a box may still participate in the 4-H Virtual Camp using alternative supply items that should be easily available around the house.”

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Caption
Camp Clifton is having a fundraiser to help with the upkeep of the 4-H camp.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

House and 54 prospective counselors began planning the 2020 version of camp last fall before the general public was aware of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

“After the initial disappointment of learning that the 4-H camp they love so much was canceled due to COVID-19, they chose to take the high-road – to stay positive and focused on bringing camping experiences to kids in a new way,” House said. “4-H camp counselors have developed important life skills and lessons, including persevering through disappointment, planning out of their comfort zone, and honing their technology skills.”

The result is four 90-minute sessions planned for 5 p.m. each day. There will be a different Zoom link for access each day, and kids can take part in as many days as they wish.

The hope is to reproduce some of camp’s most memorable activities: “Campfire” and “Inspiration” are still on the schedule, as are camp song sessions and competitions with counselors.

As in a normal year, multiple arts and crafts projects are in the works, including cooking with counselors and making friendship bracelets.

However, another planned activity calls for kids to create a time capsule to be opened in 10 years to remind them what their lives were like in 2020.

“Obviously it won’t be the same as normal, but let’s be real: 2020 isn’t exactly the year of normal,” counselor Hannah Weymouth said. “This is a great opportunity for kids to participate in, and I encourage them to as it will be similar to Camp Clifton and will allow them to step out of their shell and become more involved in 4-H.

“4-H camp is something everyone looks forward to no matter if they are 19 and in their last year of 4-H or 8 and it’s their first year. We look forward to the crappy food, the new friendships, the memories made in those creepy cabins.”

Edwards said campers provided his motivation to continue planning a camp even when the traditional version was canceled across the state by Ohio State Extension in April as part of wide-ranging efforts to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“For us, camp is everything,” Edwards said. “For the campers, it is the same way, and as a counselor, I feel that I need to try my best to create the best experience possible for those kids.

“I hope they enjoy seeing each other, even if it is in the screen. I think this will teach the kids that even in bad situations, you can always try to live up to the 4-H motto and ‘make the best better.’”

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Seth Richardson, another counselor, said planning camp online was a challenge that made him appreciate face-to-face meetings.

Knowing the kids would be participating from their homes instead of at camp also presented a challenge because the counselors had to anticipate what kinds of materials most kids would have access to.

“I hope campers will see that they can do anything when they think outside the box,” Richardson said.

Fellow counselor Kendall Spencer agreed not being able to be in the same place when making plans created challenges but also took away lessons from the experience that will hopefully be translated to the campers.

“I hope the youth can gain from this experience the value of working with what you have,” Spencer said. “You don’t always have to go out and buy new things. You can use anything and everything that can help this. I also hope they gain more flexibility when things get tough.”

Although camp is free this year, House pointed out people interested in making a financial contribution can do so by giving to the Clark County 4-H Endowment (P.O. Box 444, Springfield, Ohio, 45501) or the Camp Clifton Fund (https://buckeyefunder.osu.edu/project/21031/wall).

The latter was set up in May to help the camp, which annually hosts kids from several area counties including Clark, cover maintenance costs this year while it is closed.