Summer Camp Fund

Camp Grimes teaches boys survival skills for the woods – and life

At Camp Grimes, Scoutmaster Ted Pearson and Scout Jordan Strayhorn prepare a tattered U.S. flag for a proper burial.
At Camp Grimes, Scoutmaster Ted Pearson and Scout Jordan Strayhorn prepare a tattered U.S. flag for a proper burial.

Part of the dining hall at the Boy Scouts’ Camp Grimes burned down earlier this year, which presented a dilemma.

Camp couldn’t be canceled – and kids have to eat. Gavin Albury, the Scouts’ special initiatives and exploring district director, put it this way: “At camp, food is paramount.”

So, the staff set up a tent with portable kitchens adjacent to what’s left of the dining hall. The makeshift mess hall subtly teaches campers, Scouts ages 11 to 18, a lesson: When things don’t go your way, you’ve got to figure out a way around.

The partially burned, but still functioning, dining hall is an apt visual metaphor for the Boy Scout motto: “Be prepared.”

When you’re prepared, adversity is less likely to get in your way. The Scouts don’t want anything to keep a boy from joining Scouts or going to camp. Some campers attend Camp Grimes on scholarships like those provided through a grant from the Charlotte Observer Summer Camp Fund.

This year, the Observer grant is sending 68 boys to Camp Grimes in Nebo, N.C. They are among more than 500 kids attending 33 camps this summer because Observer readers donated to the Summer Camp Fund. This year’s goal is to raise $215,000 to send hundreds more to camp in 2018.

Jordan Strayhorn of Troop 25 at St. Paul Baptist Church in Charlotte attended Camp Grimes earlier this month. When his mom, Joi Strayhorn, picked him up, Jordan, who will be 12 in August, asked: “Does my voice sound different?”

“It did,” Joi Strayhorn said. “His voice hadn’t changed, but the way he addressed me was different. He’s not my little boy anymore. But I can handle that.”

At camp Jordan earned his emergency preparedness badge by making a stretcher out of two logs and a blanket, and he can now build a clothesline from six pieces of wood and some twine.

If he ever gets lost in the woods, he knows how to identify a sourwood tree and chew the leaves (but not swallow) to quench his thirst.

Camp isn’t just about weird food, though. Scouts learned how to cook peach cobbler in a Dutch oven over a fire.

Jordan already realizes that the experiences he had at camp will help him in life.

“I could use these skills as a soldier,” he told his mom. The early-to-rise mentality of Scouting is in keeping with the military ritual of rising before sun-up. At Camp Grimes, campers get up every day at 5:30 a.m. for the polar bear plunge in the lake.

Jordan, who is on track to earn the rank of Eagle Scout, has been a Scout since first grade. His mom has been a Scout leader for six years. As a seasoned Scout, the wilderness and hiking were nothing new to Jordan, but being away from home for this long was.

Strayhorn said her son was a little homesick early in the week, but stuck it out. If he had come home early, he would have missed completing the 5-mile hike, which was his proudest accomplishment.

And a sense of accomplishment is what Scout leaders hope campers will feel. “We challenge these kids and believe in them,” Albury said. Maybe before they believe in themselves.

Camp Grimes’ new dining hall is slowly emerging from the ashes. To accommodate the construction schedule, each camp session – normally one week – had to be shortened by a day.

But the Scouts are always prepared. It’s one of the most important lessons the organization teaches. Camp Grimes Scouts were reminded of it every day at breakfast, lunch and dinner.

To give to the Summer Camp Fund

Donate at charlotteobserver.com/summercampfund. Or send donations to The Summer Camp Fund, P.O. Box 37269, Charlotte, NC 28237-7269.

Each Sunday during the drive, the Observer will list contributors to the fund. If you wish to make an anonymous donation, indicate it on the “for” line of your check or on PayPal, note your preference in the special instructions field. To donate in honor or in memory of someone, use the “for” line or special instructions field. Donations are tax-deductible and are processed through Observer Charities, a 501(c)(3).

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