MASON COUNTY — The Mason County 4-H Camp has made its full return for the first time since 2019. The first camp of the summer started on Sunday with the high school students.
The two-year hiatus was a result of the pandemic, as there was no safe way to have camp as they usually had it.
While the residential camps did not happen in 2020 or 2021, the program tried to work around the challenges presented by the pandemic. In 2020, the camp was fully online and there were single-day camps for each individual age group in 2021.
“They didn’t get what they typically get out of a residential camp,” Lorrie Wright, a WVU extension agent for 4-H youth development, said.
While Wright and the campers are happy to be back, they said that they are still facing challenges as results from the pandemic.
As a result of the case numbers in Mason County rising right before the camp started, they have had to develop their own COVID-19 protocols in partnership with the Mason County Health Department. Campers and their parents had their temperatures taken and were asked a series of questions before they were allowed to register.
During the camp, the students have their temperatures taken every morning.
“It’s not perfect but it’s one way that we can make the camp a little bit safer,” Wright said.
The buildings on the campground also required extensive preparation after not being used for so long.
“It’s like starting over,” Wright said.
Upon their arrival to camp, the campers are separated into different groups, called “tribes.” Prior to the camp, there are “chiefs” and “sagamores” selected from the older campers to lead the campers from their respective tribes and act as role models.
“Our responsibilities are to lead our tribes,” said Parker Henderson, Chief of the Cherokee Tribe, “and to be in charge of our tribes from day-to-day and make sure they’re doing things they need to be doing and not things they’re not supposed to be doing.”
As a result of the pandemic, many of the campers are new and do not know how the camp usually works. This is a new challenge for the chiefs and sagamores, as well as the staff, as there are three years worth of new campers who do not know expectations, rules and traditions.
The high school camp is only one of the 4-H camps happening this summer. A camp for younger members will take place next week.
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Luke Blain is a staff writer for Ohio Valley Publishing.