Carolina Raptor Center camps teaches nature

Last year, two 10-year-old boys volunteered consistently at the Carolina Raptor Center in Huntersville.

Their families didn't have the money to send them to camp, so the boys chose to spend time with the birds without expecting anything in return.

But thanks to scholarship money, they spent a week at the center's Kids for Conservation day camp.

"We felt they were really excellent candidates and we were able to thank them by giving them scholarships," said Heather Moeller Bofill, last summer's camp director.

The boys still volunteer on a regular basis and one went on to the Counselor in Training program.

"They couldn't show us their appreciation with money, but they could with their time," Moeller Bofill said.

It's children like these whom the Summer Camp Fund hopes to send to camp this year.

The Summer Camp Fund is an effort by the nonprofit POST (Partners in Out-of-School-Time) and The Charlotte Observer. Readers are asked to make monetary donations so young, economically underprivileged people can attend summer camps 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.

The Carolina Raptor Center offers seven weeks of camp programs in three categories:

Wings of Wonder.

Hawkwarts: A Camp for Muggles.

Young Raptor Veterinarians.

The center also offers Counselor in Training programs for older students.

The Young Raptor Veterinarians camp is new.

"I'm really excited about the Young Vet camp," said Karan Barber, this summer's camp director. "We're going to have a different theme each day. We'll do anatomy and physiology and do assessments for injured birds. We want the kids to really see our goal is to rehabilitate and release our raptors."

According to Barber, the goal of all the Carolina Raptor Center camps is to show campers the importance of environmental education and why raptors are important.

"If you notice something going on in the raptor environment, then you need to understand what's happening to them can also happen to humans," Barber said.

According to Moeller Bofill, this environmental consciousness is carried on by the children after leaving camp.

"We're trying to empower kids and make them feel like they can make a difference in many areas," she said.

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