Camp makes nature accessible

GREENFIELD — Rain poured relentlessly on Nameless Creek Youth Camp this week, drenching its fields, trails and facilities; but campers shrugged it off.

Activities carried on as planned at the nonprofit’s fifth annual Plug Into Nature Camp, a program designed to provide an opportunity to disadvantaged third-, fourth- and fifth-graders from Hancock County schools.

Counselors led campers this week through a variety of activities, such as hiking, horseback riding, tie dye and foot races. Campers also learned about the woods around them and found out ways to protect nature’s resources through reusing and recycling materials.

For families who might struggle to make ends meet, spending extra money on a weeklong summer camp isn’t always an option, which organizers say prompted them to create an affordable experience.

“We want every child to experience nature, especially those who have a desire to have a camp experience close to home but might not have had that opportunity before,” said Jerry Bell, president of the board for Nameless Creek, a 12.7-acre property with a network of trails hemmed in by trees and a creek.

The day camp is funded by community organizations and individuals who donate to Nameless Creek, including Tri Kappa, Greenfield Sertoma Club and the local Kiwanis Club. Bell receives recommendations for qualified campers from guidance counselors in Hancock County schools, and the registration fee is kept as low as possible, he said.

After guidance counselors make their recommendations and those families have the opportunity to sign up, registration is opened up to other students.

Bell estimated that more than three-quarters of this year’s 48 campers came from families who might not otherwise be able to afford the camp.

Jessica Harris, 9, said this is her first year going to summer camp, but she hopes to return next year.

“We played in the rain today and got soaking wet, but it was still a lot of fun,” Jessica said.

Inviting children to unplug from technology and get in touch with the natural world around them is one of the camp’s goals — one Jessica quickly realized after a few days on the grounds.

“I mostly stay inside and play Xbox in the summer, but my legs don’t hurt at night like they do after I run around all day,” she said.

Betty Edwards read about the camp in a school newsletter and decided it would be good for her granddaughter, Angela.

“I always wanted to go to camp but never did,” Edwards said. “I saw this and thought it’d be good because it’s very educational, and they get to learn about nature.”

That’s precisely what the program is designed for, camp director Martha Haynes said. The goal is to provide an educational experience that also teaches campers to appreciate nature, she added.

“You can tell that many of these kids haven’t been in this situation before, and it just opens up their minds,” she said.

Katie Schrank, an incoming senior at Greenfield-Central High School, applied to be a counselor because she loves working with kids and hopes to pursue a career as an educator.

“I’m learning just as much as the kids are,” said Schrank, who also served as a counselor last summer. “It’s amazing to see how they learn from each other. When their parents dropped them off on the first day, a lot of them were really shy; but they really open up to each other and liven up as the week goes on.”

Haynes agreed, adding that the enthusiasm spreads as the week progresses.

“I love to see the look on their faces when they learn,” she said. “We had a kid who couldn’t jump rope, but we all taught him, and he jumped like 15 times in a row today. The energy is so exciting to see.”

Daniel Morgan is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. He can be reached at (317) 477-3228 or