The 2020-2021 Norwayne FFA officer team at their annual retreat at Ohio FFA Camp Muskingum.

A summer well spent at the “Happiest Place on Dirt”

By Bethany Starlin, OCJ FFA reporter

Sitting prominently on a hillside at the edge of Leesville Lake lies a place that is near and dear to the hearts of those fortunate enough to experience it. Far from society and far from cell service, Ohio FFA Camp Muskingum offers an experience like no other. 

Each summer, FFA members from across the state travel to Camp Muskingum eager for the week ahead. A long trip for most, the camp sits roughly 10 miles outside of Carrollton, Ohio, but the trip is worth it for FFA members as they are about to experience a life-changing week. After navigating the winding roads that certainly weren’t designed for school buses for what felt like hours, campers pass under the infamous arch that reads “Ohio FFA Camp Muskingum.”

Upon arrival they are greeted by a beautiful view of Leesville Lake, the numerous buildings decorating the hillside, the sports courts placed intricately in between, and of course, the smiling faces of the Ohio FFA State Officer Team. Time is precious while at camp so no time is wasted and activities begin shortly after arrival. Campers are quickly separated from the comfort of their home chapter and joined together in teams with other FFA members for the week. 

Throughout the week, campers will attend workshops facilitated by the state officer team, participate in team building activities, compete in a wide array of sporting tournaments ranging from sand volleyball to archery and end each evening with reflection around the campfire.

Meals are enjoyed family style allowing for intentional conversations, the sharing of entertaining stories from advisors who have been attending camp for years and the continuation of a favorite camp tradition: “slushy showers.” 

Regardless of whether they’re a first time camper or an advisor returning for their 20th summer in a row, attendees leave knowing just how special Ohio FFA Camp Muskingum really is. 

Another beautiful thing about FFA camp is that it’s just as special to those responsible for putting it on. 

Chyann Kendel, a rising senior at Wilmington College, has been fortunate enough to see camp through the lens of a camper, a state officer, and now a staffer. Each camp experience has been much different than the last and has offered her a variety of perspectives. 

“As a camper, I felt that camp was short term. I was receiving an experience that would be part of my FFA story. As a state officer, my experience at camp paved the way for relationships that I built throughout my year of service. And finally, as a staffer I have seen my perspective shift once again. I was able to create experiences for others as well as myself,” Kendel said. 

The job description of a staffer is fluid, as no day at camp is anything like the day before. From developing programming, facilitating activities, conducting registration and managing campers, staffers task lists are diverse. Above all else, staffers are responsible for ensuring each day at camp is a success. 

With the days beginning at sunrise and ending well after dark, the job is both physically and emotionally demanding. However, it is extremely rewarding as they get a front row seat in watching camp transform student’s lives. 

“Throughout this summer in particular, I found myself thinking about the role that FFA Camp plays in the lives of those who attend. I enjoyed sitting and chatting with people like Todd Davis, Ralph Coffman, and many advisors as we talked about the way things used to be. As I heard these stories, I couldn’t help but think about the way things will be in the future. From the past to the present, FFA Camp has provided experiences of personal growth, leadership, and fun,” Kendel said.

Camp would not be possible if it weren’t for individuals like Kendel who give it their all in ensuring camp is enjoyed by those who attend. Both summer staff and permanent staffers recognize the valuable role camp plays in FFA members’ journeys.

“When I think about what FFA Camp means to me, I can’t help but think about it as the place that brings people of various generations together for a common cause. FFA Camp serves as a link that actively connects our history to our current moments,” Kendel said. 

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