|06-19-03: Wet and dirty
|By SHELLEY GRIESHOP
The Daily Standard
Shrieks of laughter could be heard all over Harbor Point 4-H Campground
on Wednesday. Kids were chasing each other with hoses and water balloons, some with their
hair painted green and many covered with mud from head to toe.
Of course the "kids" weren't the 9- to 13-year-old campers,
they were the high school-age camp counselors who seemed to be having just as much fun -
maybe more - than the youngsters who watched them in awe.
"I skipped my senior trip to come here," Erin Weitzel, a
recent graduate of St. Henry High School, said proudly as she watched her fellow
counselors slide in the mud.
Every year, hundreds of 4-Hers from all over Mercer County attend the
camp along Grand Lake St. Marys. When they reach the high school level, many of them
volunteer as counselors in training (CIT), and later as full-fledged counselors at the
camp. After countless hours of class and on-sight training, they learn to be full-time
caregivers to the younger 4-H members.
Barb Phares, youth development agent for the Ohio State University
Extension Office, said the counselors are a gift from heaven.
"We couldn't do it without them, I know that," Phares said.
"You know how busy teens are these days, but they still take the time to come back
and help us make the camps successful."
The companionship between the counselors is special, and so is the
caring way they dote on the little campers who follow them around like puppies. They
nestle down at night next to the tearful ones with homesickness, and listen patiently to
the campers countless stories as they jabber on non-stop.
Nearly all the counselors on hand this week spent their first-time
camping experiences at Harbor Point, too, so they have a special insight into the needs of
"For most of the little guys, it's the first time they're away
from home overnight and they get real quiet at first," said 19-year-old camp
counselor Brenda Broering, an 11-year 4-H veteran and Marion Local grad. "Later they
open up and you know they're going to be OK."
Weitzel said she likes the big sister role she plays when inevitably
one of the campers gets "attached."
"You have this little sidekick that goes everywhere with you. You
get the opportunity to calm them down and watch them make friends," said Weitzel, who
spent four years as a camper, one year as a CIT and is in her fourth year as a full camp
This is the second week of overnight 4-H camp, which is held from
Monday through Thursday. About 100 campers attended each week along with two dozen or so
counselors, a nurse, adult volunteers, Phares and an assistant. Guest speakers came in
throughout the week and, as always, the children were kept busy with a host of crafts and
Although the days are filled with fun, the antics really get started at
sundown around the campfire, campers and counselors agree.
"That's my favorite time," quipped Erin Weitzel's younger
sister, Lauren, 16.
It's also the time when counselors find out who the most gullible
campers are. Games are often played after dark and skits are performed to entertain the
young boys and girls.
There are many traditions upheld each year at camp and the counselors
know and enforce them all. Campers must sing aloud for the items they retrieve from the
lost and found. And it's not unusual to see children skipping around the dining hall when
they forget to keep their elbows off the table.
Cabins 4 and 9 recently learned the hard way about the importance of
cabin cleanliness. Twice during their four-day stay their sloppiness was rewarded with
bathroom clean-up duties. Also, the cabin that is the loudest each night is responsible
for taking out all the trash the next day.
There are lessons to be learned, but the good times keep the campers
coming back each year.
"We get ice cream or donuts or something like that before bed
every night," smiled Katelyn Skoczyn, 11, of Celina, as her friends nodded nearby.
And of course the counselors have their moments of disagreement, but
they soon forgive and forget when a playful soap fight erupts in the kitchen.
"What's neat is we come from all over the county, from different
schools, and we come together to have fun," Broering said. "It's all about
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