Fund offers 2nd chance for 5 campers

Thanks to the generosity of the Summer Camp Fund, five Catawba County kids will return to 4-H camp this summer.

"When we found out we had been awarded five scholarships, we decided to give them to returning campers," said Donna Mull, Catawba County 4-H agent. "We had the kids write letters telling us why they wanted to go back this summer."

Next month, Mull will lead those five - plus 25 other campers, many on other scholarships - to the Betsy-Jeff Penn 4-H Camp in Reidsville. The one-week residential camp for kids age 8-14 will feature swimming, canoeing, ropes course, horseback riding, team building, rock climbing and more.

"I learned so many things last year and made new friends," wrote one returning 9-year-old camper. "I had never shot a bow-n-arrow or ridden a horse or paddled a canoe. I did pretty well at shooting the bow-n-arrow. The canoeing and horseback riding were another story. This is one of the reasons I would like to come back to camp. I would like to make that canoe and horse do what I want them to do."

The camp experiences are made possible by the nonprofit POST (Partners in Out-of-School Time) and The Charlotte Observer. Readers are asked to make monetary donations to help send underprivileged kids to summer camp in a safe, supervised atmosphere.

The fund will provide 173 scholarships to 13 camps this year. Sixty-eight percent of funding will go to camps in Mecklenburg County and 32 percent to camps in other parts of the state.

Mull says 4-H camp is the only enrichment opportunity many of her campers will experience this summer. It's their only chance to get away from home and experience a vacation.

"I like going to camp because you're always active and never bored," wrote a second returning camper.

Mull says the camp, however, is much more than just a week of fun.

"It's a chance to conquer a fear, like riding a horse. It's a chance to build confidence, and it's a chance to learn responsibility, like making their bed and picking up their clothes. For some, it's the first time they have ever been away from home," Mull said.

Ten campers applied for the five $380 Summer Camp Fund scholarships. Mull said selecting the recipients was tough. Next year, she said, she's hoping she can take them all because each one had the experience of a lifetime.

A 13-year-old who's returning wrote, "This camp has brought many memories to me and the times I had like canoeing, sleeping under the stars, swimming and other amazing activities. Returning to a place like this is a wonderful opportunity to experience more about the camp and to remember the magnificent times I had there. To experience something again is like a dream, because you can do more things and know how to do it well."