Rural action is in its 9th year running youth summer camp. Their goal is to contribute to the overall wellness of youth and to also give children the tools they need to care for the land and improve their quality of life through environmental stewardship. These camps run for only one week, but in that one week kids have an opportunity to learn about the nature around them, which is a big change of pace from being cooped up in a classroom all school year. From hiking to canoeing to hanging out on the beach, kids get to do it all in a week's time.
The campers lead by Joe Brehm, Rural Action's new Environmental Education Program Director, see many different parks in Southeast Ohio in the week they have together. They began the week at the Glouster Community Park, followed by the Trimble Community Park, and then they traveled to the Wilds, located in Cumberland, Ohio, where they were able to get a look at the wide array of animals such as Rhinos and Giraffes. Thursday they traveled to Monroe Outlook and they ended the week at Burr Oak State Park on Friday. Guest speakers teach the kids in small groups. While I was there the children were learning more about a fish's natural habitat. Later, every camper was given a fishing rod and they were taught how to tie a fishing hook and learned how to properly cast a fishing rod. Earlier in the week the kids were taught a survival program by the Program director Joe which included how to properly make fire without a set of matches.
None of these camps and the learning experiences that go along with them would be possible if it wasn't for funding from outside organizations such as the Athens Foundation. Rural Action receives a substantial EPA grant during the school year which helps with environmental learning projects in the classroom, but this grant does not apply to extracurricular activities such as these camps during the summer. That is where the Athens Foundation and other organizations come into the picture to help Rural Action with their mission of fostering social, economic, and environmental justice in Appalachian Ohio. The Athens Foundation awarded Rural Action a $3,000 grant to fund these youth summer camps. Specifically, this money has gone towards paying for increasing transportation costs for the children to and from parks. This money has also gone towards giving the kids two meals a day as well as more supplies and equipment such as butterfly nets and fishing rods. Besides the summer camps, the money will also be used to conduct eight library programs throughout Athens County focusing on environmental and leadership issues among youth. Also, money will be used to provide outdoor programming for at least sixty children through Kids on Campus and Trimble Elementary School. The rest of the money will go towards outdoor leadership activities at the Hocking Valley Community Residential Center that will include at least twenty at-risk youths. The Athens Foundation can undeniably say that the grant money they have awarded to Rural Action is being used to enhance the quality of life of people throughout our region in a productive way.