Stafford County 4-H club members enjoy week at Kansas 4-H Camp

Amy Collins
St. John News
Stafford County 4-Hers taking part in Kansas 4-H Camp this year include (bottom from left) Addie McAlister, Rylee Ferguson, Lainey Peterson, Lilly McAlister, Wyatt Reed, Easton Alpers, Jayce Feril, Ryer Ward, (top row) Jessica Schrag, Dylan Reed and Madilyn Hearn.

Stafford County 4-H members were excited to attend 4-H Camp at Rock Springs Ranch as they were celebrating 75 years of 4-H camp at Rock Springs Ranch this year. After the challenges of the last year, Rock Springs was up and running this year at 50% capacity. Stafford County was able to take their allotment of eight campers, three counselors and one extension agent this year.

4-H Camp at Rock Springs gives youth a chance to come together, learn, exercise independence, find new sparks and grow as a team. One of the exciting additions to Rock Springs this year was a new Leadership Ropes Challenge Course. Kansas 4-H Foundation and the Kansas State 4-H Youth Council challenged all 4-H Clubs to donate to the campaign “Endorse the Course.” All three Stafford County 4-H Clubs donated to this project this past year and members were excited to be able to try out the course when they attended camp.

Other activities campers experienced were archery, canoes, fishing, stream study, swimming, horseback riding, educational and nature related programs, hiking and many more. Campers and counselors are always excited for camp and equally excited to see campers and friends they have met in previous years as well.

Changes are happening at Rock Springs Ranch for camp season in 2022. For several years the Kansas 4-H family has been working together to develop plans for the future. Continual renewal and evolution is the hallmark of a healthy program and the future is promising for Kansas 4-H Camp.

For the past two years the Kansas 4-H Camp Taskforce, made up of extension professionals around the state, has met to discuss the new approach to camp. Modern camp standards have changed, and in order to meet the KSRE Administration’s and Kansas 4-H Foundation Trustees’ joint goals of accessibility, consistency, and camper care and safety, an evolved model is necessary. However, what this evolution will allow is actually a return to 4-H roots - a focus on camp being an integral part of a complete 4-H experience for any youth who chooses to participate.

Registration for Camp 2022 will start much earlier than in the past. Starting September 1, 2021, 4-H youth and their families will be able to choose from any camp sessions for which their age of youth is eligible. The options will include 3-night and 6-night “traditional camp” options, family camp, and specialty camps all of various lengths. All 4-H youth aged 8-18 will have camp options, and the traditional counselor-aged youth will also have LEAD and Counselor-in-Training (CIT) programs to choose from that are designed to enhance the incredible Kansas 4-H tradition of teen counselors.

From September 1- October 31, registration for camp will be exclusive to current 4-H members and will all receive a 10% discount on their registration fee. Starting November 1, registration will be opened to all youth. One of the goals is that camp will become an incredible recruiting tool to encourage youth and families to seek a local 4-H experience when returning home.

There has been speculation about cost. The new rates will be inclusive of the entire cost of camp - including transportation from designated bus stop locations around the state, camp-related attire and gear, insurance and health-related expenses, and other associated costs. Families have different abilities to pay and will offer a voluntary pricing structure that provides subsidized options for those families needing some assistance. The pricing tier selected will in no way influence the experience the camper receives.

Enhancing accessibility to Kansas 4-H experiences is a philanthropic priority of the Kansas 4-H Foundation, and the team is hard at work securing funds and committed to building a robust state-wide campership program that will work in collaboration with local campership programs to continue to make camp accessible to all youth. Rates are currently being finalized and will be provided in the near future.

A Stafford County 4-Her catches a fish at Rock Springs Ranch during last week's 4-H camp.