It’s time for camp again

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 12, 2004

It’s 9:05 a.m. on Thursday, July 8, at YMCA Camp Grist – the last day of the YMCA Day Camp 2.

Sixty-five neatly-scrubbed, colorfully-attired, well-equipped children are getting off the Meadowview Christian School bus driven by Angie Miller, YMCA CEO, one by one.

They’ve been singing camp songs while the bus passed through the forests to the camp about 15 miles north of Selma.

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It’s a bright, cool day in front of the Grist dining hall where the steps rise up to a spacious front porch.

A perfect day for day camp.

Suddenly a camper cries out and points at a snake slithering off into the underbrush.

All eyes turn to see the visitor.

“No problem,” says camp director Allen Bearden confidently,

who’s getting ready to give morning orientation, “It’s just a king snake.” And he continues with his directions to the assembly of counselors and campers, telling each group what it will be doing during the day. It’s Thursday and the children will be spending the night.

The excitement is building.

Most of the children are from Selma but about nine are visiting from as far away as Texas, according to Bearden. KiKi Hill, 10, and her brother Keymahr, 8, are visiting from Houston. Their mother is an oceanographer who is working in the Selma area for several months. Kiki has made a good friend –

D’Essence Hamption, 9 – and Keymahr is helping 3-year-old Will Bracken of Selma to get organized for the day. Mary Taylor Peake, 8, and her friends McKenzie Strather, 8, and McKenzie’s

sister Liz, 5-and-a-half, are talking about their favorite camp activities with Shelby Chandler, 8, on the front steps of the dining hall while waiting for orientation to begin.

Mary Taylor loved arts and crafts and hiking. McKenzie and Liz were high on mudsliding, while Shelby said she loved the swimming pool. Standing nearby, Phillip Peake, 5, said canoeing was his favorite activity, while Harrison Adams, 6, said he liked the gym the best.

Some of the children are present for the first time. Many have come before, and of these, many follow in the footsteps of parents – and even grandparents – who made the pilgrimage to Camp.

Cate Gilmer, one of the seven counselors, spent seven years as a camper, one year as a CIT (Counselor In Training) before finally becoming

a full-fledged counselor.

She’s typical. The Y grows its own summer camp leadership. Being a counselor is not something for which you apply. It’s by invitation.

Ellis Talton, 16, another counselor, is in charge of Cabin 7 which has eight day campers. With him is Chase Sims, a CIT back for a second year.

The group inhabiting Cabin 7 has named itself “The Mechanical Bad Boys,” according to Sims.

Bearden, a teacher at the School of Discovery, was a counselor back in the early 1990s. Lately he’s served on the Camp Grist Committee. Now he’s director and is enjoying the summer series of camps tremendously, he said.

“It’s a great bunch of kids,” he said. “They’re having a wonderful time. And we have an exceptional group

of counselors,

and the parents have been tremendously supportive,” he said.

Special thanks were reserved for the Cogle family – Fred, Kim, Clayton (a counselor)

and his twin brother Kirk – who spent an enormous amount of time getting the camp ready for the summer, according to Bearden.

“They’ve done a ton of work,” Bearden said. “Also assisting were Y board members, Camp Grist Committee members and other volunteers,” he added.

“Kim has taken on tremendous responsibility,”

he said, “getting things done that otherwise would not have been done. It’s a real community effort. Rotary and Kiwanis put up a lot of money for repairs done this past spring, along with individual donors, that resulted in the $16,000 replacement of the gymnasium roof, and repairs to the girl’s bath house and to the arts and crafts cabin. The work was done by Fred Striedick Construction and Cooper Brothers Construction at very reasonable prices,” he said. Bearden also praised Allyson Dansby, YMCA recreation/teen director, for her role in providing the camp ideas and the nuts-and-bolts of camping, and YMCA CEO Angie Miller for overall direction.

Miller said that this year is the best ever at Camp Grist, with an estimated 250 to 350 campers participating from June 7 to July 24. “We had more participants in this camp than we’ve had in the last 10 years,” she said. “It’s been an awesome summer at Camp Grist,” she said.