WELLSBURG - From shooting arrows to playing musical instruments, youth participating in Brooke County 4-H have learned about many things, but most of all, they have learned more about themselves.
Those who attended the annual 4-H camp, held at Oglebay Park's Camp Russell, got to try many activities with the help of adult 4-H leaders and volunteers and teen counselors.
Under one picnic shelter a group was pounding on waist-high kettle drums under the direction of Wendy Seidewitz, a music teacher from Bethany. Seidewitz said the class of pre-teens has been learning about musical styles of Africa and the Caribbean.
From front to back, Grant Van Camp, Austin Chambers, Zac McKinney and Kody Duffy honed archery skills while attending Brooke County 4-H Camp at Oglebay Park’s Camp Russell this summer. It was one of many activities youth participated in while attending the camp.
-- Warren Scott
Elsewhere a group gathered around a picnic table as Tim Gatts, husband of 4-H Program Assistant Liz Gatts, led a class in outdoor cooking.
Gatts wrapped a steak, onions and mushrooms in a piece of aluminum foil and mixed vegetables in another, each with an ice cube, he explained, to keep the contents moist while creating steam that helps to cook the contents.
Those who don't like onions don't have to eat them, but they give the meat a nice flavor, he advised, before breaking the group into smaller groups to prepare their own grilled entrees.
Inside a dining hall nearby, schoolteacher Kelly Eggert showed boys and girls how to use colored duct tape to make hair bands, bow ties, wallets and flip flops.
Eggert explained she got ideas for the crafts from the Internet.
Downhill from the hall was a group shooting arrows into playing cards pinned to haystacks under the direction of Alecia Staats, an archery instructor with the camp since 2006.
"Yesterday we played 21. They had to hit cards totaling as close to 21 as they could," she said.
Staats added campers also aimed at traditional four-color targets and balloons and could try target shooting with air rifles and air pistols also.
Last year several 4-H members 12 and older, boys and girls, formed a shooting sports team.
"Eventually we'd like to have meets and have other counties come," Staats said.
The team's members must belong to a local 4-H club, but the camp is open to any child or teen and often serves as an introduction to the program, which offers a variety of year-round activities for youth.
"I started with camp and then joined a club," said Alicia Sims, 17, of Weirton, who is in her seventh year with 4-H.
Her club's activities have included seeing Oglebay Park's Festival of Lights at Christmas, visiting a local television studio, volunteering at the Brooke County Animal Shelter, and through the Hugs and Hopes program, providing gifts for children with terminal illnesses.
Sims said she's served in various offices with the club, something she wouldn't have considered before joining.
Her favorite part of the club is planning activities for her fellow members. It's not surprising, then, that she plans to be a junior counselor for the camp next year.
"I used to be shy, but this place helped me get out of my shell," agreed 15-year-old Grant Van Camp of Wellsburg.
Last year he became leader of his "tribe" at the camp. As chief, he helped to direct the group's activities.
"I was nervous, a little stressed, but only because I wanted the kids to have fun," he said.
Van Camp was among many who said the thing they enjoyed most about the camp was gathering around the campfire for nightly "council" meetings.
Each camper is encouraged to sing or tell a joke or story, explained Jenna Hess, 14, of Washington, Pa.
Kaylee Grzybek, 15, of Bethany said she enjoys swimming most at the camp's pool each afternoon and making new friends.
Ronnie Jordan, 15, also of Bethany, said the campers' day begins at 7:15 a.m. when they gather for breakfast, and he had no complaints about the food.
Fourteen-year-old Zac McKinney of Follansbee said he didn't know he'd be getting up that early or that cell phones, television and radio are prohibited there, but he's enjoyed the experience.
While there are many activities, there's also time to meet new friends and have fun, too, he said.
"And getting outdoors is nice," McKinney added.
Science experiments and a performance by the Mystery Theater Unlimited acting troupe also were among the camp's many activities.
While camp season is coming to an end, area youth are invited to join a local 4-H club. For information, call Erica Gump, the Brooke County West Virginia University Extension Service's new director of 4-H and youth programs, at (304) 737-3665.
(Scott can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)