4-H Grows #5: Camp

So here’s my obligatory personal story about camp…

I decided that I needed to go to 4-H camp when I heard our banquet’s keynote speaker (a recent 4-H alum) refer to camp as her “prize” for a great year of 4-H work.  She painted this glorious picture of all these great 4-H kids laughing, having fun, and doing cool things!

And so…I signed up to spend the week at 4-H Camp Cherry Lake.

And I hated it.  For the first few days, I absolutely hated camp.  Yes, there was laughing, having fun, and doing cool things…however I wanted NONE OF IT!  Those other kids could have all the fun, I just wanted to go home!  I was 9, had never spent much time away from home, and was incredibly homesick.  Each night I begged to go home, but my cruel mother would not allow it.  She said she was not about to pack our things and drive back home until the week was over (did I mention my mother was a chaperone at camp?).

Then predictably, something changed…call it what you want, I like to call it “independence”.  Somewhere mid-week I realized this 4-H camp thing was pretty alright.  In fact, it WAS downright fun.  From that point on, I have been a huge advocate for residential camp.  I passionately believe there are few opportunities where we can so keenly engage 4-H members in all four Essential Elements of PYD simultaneously (Belonging, Mastery, Generosity, and Independence).  And thus, in Florida 4-H, we camp.

Now sometimes I hear from colleagues, “Yeah- but I just don’t like camp.”

And to that I say… Tough.  🙂

In Florida 4-H, we camp.

Now, does that mean YOU camp?  Maybe not.  Maybe it means you have a great camping volunteer who coordinates your camping program (I’ve had them- they exist!).  Maybe you have a great agent in your county who focuses on Environmental Education, and wants their 5% 4-H responsibility to focus on camping. Regardless of whether YOU camp, your kids (all kids– not just currently enrolled 4-H members) must be able to experience 4-H camp.  Because in Florida 4-H we believe camp is important, and so- we camp.

Some things to think about for camping success:

  • Know the resources!  Florida 4-H Summer Camp Planning Guide
  • Know your barriers up front!  Perhaps you have transportation concerns, adult coverage concerns, etc.  Whatever it is- contact your 4-H RSA, Florida 4-H Camping Coordinator, or trusted colleagues.  Problems have solutions…you just have to be willing to look.
  • Promote EARLY!  Once you have your date, refer to it often.  In newsletters, blog posts, etc.
  • Offer financial assistance and payment plans.  Allow 4-H members opportunities to fundraise for themselves.  Also, allow 4-H families to reserve their spot with a deposit, and then agree to a reasonably monthly fee until camp is paid.
  • Promote sponsorship opportunities like “Giving the Gift of Camp”  (as Leon, Gilchrist, and several other counties offer) to allow relatives, friends, and parents the chance to purchase a child’s camp registration as a holiday gift.
  • Remember, all youth can go to 4-H camp.  Do not limit 4-H camp just to those 4-H members already enrolled.  4-H camp is a great recruitment tool for the rest of your program (and more parents understand what a “CAMP” is versus a “4-H CLUB”).  Perhaps offer a discounted fee for those youth already enrolled in 4-H.
  • Speaking of non-4-H members- promote 4-H camp well-beyond your county 4-H newsletter.  Look for opportunities to advertise through online children’s event directories like Fun 4 Gator Kids, pass out flyers through the local school system, or even consider purchasing road side signs to locations frequented by kids and families.
  • Host a Potential Camper Night before Spring Break (Spring Break is often when families begin thinking about summer childcare options).  This gives families the opportunity to meet you, your staff, understand our policies and procedures, and decide if 4-H camp is a match for their family.
  • Ditch the big trophy you give your “4-H Member of the Year” at your county banquet and award them with a free trip to 4-H camp.  Camp IS a prize!  And it’s a big deal to get to go!
  • For another helpful resource on all things camping (Neva promotes this one frequently) check out:  Camp Hacker.

Whatever you do- do camp.  Because in Florida 4-H, we camp.

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