The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

4-H campers rise above storm

 

July 22, 2019

Tom LaVenture/Daily Globe

Cabin sisters, from left, Luci Manzer, 9, Peyton Howe, 9, Emma Binz, 9, and Aubrey Laguna, 9, seated behind, talk about the week at Iron County Summer Youth Camp before lunch Thursday at Trail's End Camp in Rusk County, Wisconsin. Amanda Sprague, camp nurse, stands in back, watching on with Joyce Gayan, camp volunteer.

By TOM LAVENTURE

tlaventure@yourdailyglobe.com

BRUCE, Wis. - For the first time the annual Iron County Summer Youth Camp for kids going into fourth and sixth-grade was held at the historic Trail's End Camp in Rusk County, Wisconsin.

The 146 acre camp is former logging land that was deeded to the Rusk County 4-H Club Committee in 1933, according to camp information. The camp expanded over the years and became a site for youth camping groups all around the state.

It took some planning to run a camp more than two hours away from the Hurley/Ironwood area, said Neil Klemme, camp director and youth development educator for the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Division of Extension.

"That's why we extended an extra night this year," Klemme said. "Since we are so far away it's not possible to make trips back and forth and split staff days in camp. We all came together."

The week-long camp got off to a challenging first day on June 15, as the power went out during a storm that followed with a tornado warning that sent the 73 kids, including seven Ironwood kids, 21 counselors, Extension staff and 12 adult chaperones into respective bathroom/shower rooms for 90 minutes until the fire department arrived with the all clear order.

"We weren't really prepared for it and alot of us didn't have flashlights when the power went out," said Holton Tilton, 10, of Ironwood. "It was scary but the fire department came and said there was no tornado and so we went back to our cabins."

Tilton said everyone put the first night jitters behind them and that camp was "pretty fun" for the remainder of the week.

Luci Manzer, 9, of Iron Belt, said she enjoyed playing Ga-ga ball the most. It's her first camp and she said it's fun.

"I liked decorating the cowboy hats in arts and crafts," she said.

Emma Binz, 9, of Hurley, said her first camp is fun but that it took some getting used to.

"It's fun to hang out with all your friends but I miss my mom and dad a little bit," Emma said. "I've never been away from them that long."

Keeping kids focused on the moment is the best way to prevent homesickness, Klemme said. It's a big part of camp counselor training. The counselors have kids write letters to their parents, and then use phones to photograph them and text to the parents to help the counselors spot any concerns, he said.

"We encourage the letters because if the kids call home that seems to add to the homesickness," Klemme said. "The biggest thing is to keep the kids busy."

There are cabin responsibilities, kitchen duty and camp cleanup, along with morning jogs, fishing, yoga, swimming, hiking, night recreation, arts and crafts and Native storytelling to keep the kids busy, he said. The camper should be going home exhausted but ecstatic, he said.

The activities are designed to teach the four essential elements of 4-H, he said. Those are positive youth development, mastery, belonging, independence and generosity.

"The counselors are taught to help the kids feel they belong," Klemme said. "The cabin nicknames, the camp shirts - everybody feels like part of the group."

This is the first time away from home for many of the kids and so it's an opportunity to build a sense of independence, he said. That comes from elective sessions and getting involved in their choices, he said.

Kids learn mastery of new skills from swimming to air rifle and archery and canoeing. The campers learn generosity through giving back to the camp by cleaning the grounds, doing dishes and making decisions that affect fellow cabin members, he said.

"Camp to me is the number one place where you can see positive youth development happening," Klemme said. "You can see it from the youngest kid through the high school kid. You are seeing them learn new skills and becoming leaders and developing into the adults we want them to be when they are older."

Reilly Manzer, a secondary education student at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, was a 4-H member and volunteered to teach Ojibwe language and culture along with a nature class. He said it was important to tie the Native American culture into the stories, games and activities the kids were playing to get a sense of connection with the land.

"We held an Ojibwa ceremony about respecting the land and then did a tree-planting when the kids entered the camp," he said.

Cass Bordner, a Hurley High School sophomore, is also 4-H member and camp photographer. She said the camps and counselors made a big difference in her youth and she wanted to do the same for other kids.

"I was really shy when I was younger and 4-H camp helped bring me out of my shell," she said. "It helped me to be comfortable around people who I didn't know yet."

Lexi Haeger, a Hurley freshman and counselor in training, said it's important to be a sharp observer and exercise a lot of patience to make sure kids have a fun but safe camp experience. The kids open up and form positive relationships with the activities, she said.

"When I was in camp the counselors always made my experience great and so I always wanted to make the kids camp experience just as great," she said.

 
 

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