4-H camp is back!

By Sally McClaskey, Ohio 4-H Youth Development

2020 saw the cancellation of 4-H camps due to COVID-19 restrictions and while camps will operate a bit differently to keep campers safe and follow recommended guidelines, many of the same activities will take place. 

The Ohio 4-H Camping Design Team spent the winter developing plans for different camp scenarios. “We looked at guidelines from the American Camp Association (ACA), Ohio State University and the Ohio Department of Health,” said France Foos, design team leader and the 4-H educator in Madison County. 

The team also reviewed research that examined the importance of camping experiences. 

“The ACA has extensive data that shows how camp contributes to the mental and physical well-being of youth,” Foos said. “And with all kids have been through over the past 18 months, going to camp could make a positive difference.” 

OSU approved the Ohio 4-H camp plan in April. Health requirements will be followed with detailed guidelines for keeping youth and counselors safe at overnight camps. “Campers will be with counselors in groups of ten or less, based on the size of cabins,” said Hannah Epley, camping and older youth specialist and interim associate state 4-H leader. “They will stay with that group for all activities and meals, so their exposure to others is limited.” 

Those activities will be supervised by 4-H professionals and teen counselors who have been preparing for camp since early this year. Counselor trainings were initially held via Zoom, but with school commitments and other responsibilities, some youth could not attend 

the virtual meetings. The Camping Design Team took the opportunity to create a virtual curriculum and record videos making the trainings accessible to all. 

After a year without camp, counselors are ready to return. “I look forward to camp every year,” said Sarah Bash, an experienced Hardin County camp counselor. “This year was hard, because we didn’t know if we would get to go or how different camp might be. 

Amanda Raines, 4-H educator in Hardin County has been impressed by her counselors. “They have been so resilient through all the changes, and are excited to make the camp experience magical, even though it will look different,” she said. 

Some counties are offering a day camp experience instead of overnight camp. Wood County 4-H’ers will still attend Camp Palmer, but have
the option of two, day-long programs. “We’ve planned crafts, a dance, swimming and a carnival,” said Jayne Roth, Wood County 4-H educator. “All the traditional camp activities fit into one day. I think it will be exciting for our counselors and will leave the kids excited to come back to camp next year.”

Going to camp in Ottawa County is a special adventure because the camp takes place on Kelleys Island. 4-H educator Liz Hirzel is also hosting two, day camps and as a newer 4-H professional, it is her first year of directing 4-H camp. “We have a great group of counselors,” she said.
“We are excited and looking forward to being on the island and keeping camp traditions alive. It will be the experience campers are used to, just happening in one day.” 

Whether youth will attend during the day or overnight, the opportunity to attend 4-H camp this summer signals a return to something familiar for them.

“We know that camp helps youth develop their skills in decision- making and personal responsibility,” Epley said. “And 4-H’ers will tell you, ‘It’s fun!’ We’re glad we can make that happen this year.” 

This year there is a special opportunity through June 24 with the “Send S’more kids to 4-H Camp” campaign. In partnership with Bob Evans Farms and the Ohio 4-H Foundation, donors who give $150 or more will receive an exclusive candle with a s’more or campfire scent, featuring labels designed by Ohio 4-H members. For more information visit: https://buckeyefunder.osu.edu/project/26181.

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