Tuesday, July 1, 2014 —
This year, campers at the Summer Explorers’ Challenge Camp learned how to scale rock walls, jump hurdles taller than they are, balance their way over tree trunks … and outrun alligators.
“You have to run zig-zag or they’ll get you,” camper Katelyn Burgess said seriously before getting up to demonstrate. Instructor Brian Hinson taught all 17 kids this delicate art between activities.
“We learn all sorts of important life skills here,” he said.
But all joking aside, he said the Challenge Camp is exactly what its name says: A camp where kids are challenged to try all sorts of new, outdoor activities.
Started in 1967 by Chuck Morehead, the program turned 47 years old this year. But while the program is old, the participants are always new.
“A lot of these kids have never been hiking in a mountain setting, or canoeing, or fishing,” Hinson said.
At the final day of camp, the kids also got to visit Fork Farms to watch hunting dogs in action, pet horses and see the barn.
Besides asking if they could take one of the dogs home and trying to catch the barn cats, the kids got to find tidbits about how hunting dogs are trained and cross country horseback riding.
“It’s a lot of fun for me to introduce them to this kind of stuff,” Hinson said.
Of course, he also introduced them to the Challenge obstacle course at Rock Creek Park, a five-part round of activities designed for the program.
“Yeah, they were a little intimidated by this at first,” camp counselor Michelle Osborne said.
Millie Mae Barfield and Aiydn Osborne had never dared to cross the logs stretching across the creek there. But Hinson and Osborne and fellow camp counselor Krista Scronce urged them on.
“I butt scooted across the first couple of times,” Barfield said.
But after Hinson walked across behind her once, she was good to go and outraced some of the boys Thursday. Osborne was close behind, crossing the last part of the log without any assistance.
Meanwhile Andy McLeod found a new way to climb the rock wall. Mylee Swaringen practically flew over the tallest hurdles. Eli Fields cranked out two pull-ups.
“I love anything that gets kids this active,” Scronce said.
As a physical education teacher, she said she feels too many kids sit on couches in the summer watching television and eating potato chips.
“This gets them outside and moving,” Osborne said.
But on top of that Scronce and Osborne said the camp has built up the kids’ confidence in themselves.
“Not all of them thought they could do this,” Osborne said.
But now they know they can run, leap and jump with the best of them.
And perhaps outrun an alligator or two.
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