Extension offers free summer day camps for first time at Oregon 4-H Center

SALEM, Ore. – Emily Lampe can’t wait to see their faces.

In two weeks, Lampe, an Oregon State University Extension 4-H faculty member, will be at the Oregon 4-H Center west of Salem, greeting children who are participating in a unique opportunity to participate in enriching activities.

Oregon 4-H Day Camps, which haven’t been offered before this year, will start in mid-August and feature arts and crafts, STEM learning, canoeing, fishing, archery, swimming and more. All of it will be free for the campers, courtesy of a grant from the Oregon Community Foundation.

“Those first days are the best,” said Lampe, who coordinates 4-H programs in Polk County and has participated in overnight camps at the 4-H Center. “Excitement is what I’ll be feeling. A lot of the kids won’t have experienced anything like this before. Even if it is a one-day experience, it will open up a whole new world to them.”

Most of the $200,000 Oregon Community Foundation grant will cover for the costs of transporting, hosting, and feeding up to 120 kids per day for 10 days. A portion of the grant will pay for hiring counselors for both the day camps and the residential camps, which started July 23.

Lampe was part of a grant-proposal team that included 4-H faculty Maureen Hosty (Portland area), Dakota Lager (Tillamook County) and Marti Deyo (Malheur County). Recruitment has begun, with materials in both English and Spanish, for youths who are both 4-H and non-4-H in those areas and counties, and counties that were impacted by the September 2020 wildfires.

“The intent of the grant was to get kids outside in the summer of 2021,” Lampe said. “There are a lot of parents who, for legitimate reasons, may not feel comfortable in sending their children to residential camps. But they might be interested in a day camp. We’re trying to make it so we can truly engage families who wouldn’t normally participate.”

Oregon’s children are struggling with mental health issues due to social isolation, particularly in rural communities with limited broadband access. They have also been impacted by limited access to nature and positive social interactions.

“Camps provide a sanctuary within the natural world, which celebrates diversity and inspires love and service where children can refresh, regroup, learn, and grow,” Lampe said. “Every kid deserves the enriching experience and lifelong learning camp provides, especially now in today’s divided and chaotic political climate. These camps help mitigate an opportunity gap for youth and give them opportunities to learn by providing a safe space to have fun in the outdoors.”

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