Tennessee 4-H camp gets creative with “Camp in a Box”

Summer plans were canceled for many, including thousands of 4-Hers who would normally be at camp. However, leaders still found a way to share a camp experience with a little creativity and postage.

The York 4-H Center in Crossville has a sad, empty vibe these days. COVID-19 canceled camp for this year, but the York Center Director, Lacy Harnage, still was not totally going to yield to the virus. She found a creative and thoughtful way to share the camping experience.

“For a lot of campers, this would have been their first time at summer camp, and for some, their first time away from home,” Harnage said. “So, I really wanted to find a way for those youth to feel the excitement of summer camp, even if it was at their home.”

On social media, Harnage leaned about “Camp in a Box.” For a small fee, campers could get a package in the mail that included items from the camp store: stuffed animals, t-shirts, and 4-H swag. Each box also included how-to instructions for activities, like arts and crafts. About 70 boxes were mailed.

“So, in each box there is five different activities. There’s one that has to do with head, health, heart, and hands-- which are our four, four H’s. There’s also a rainy-day activity because just like summer camp, there’s always a rainy day during the week,” Harnage said. “We wanted to provide them something in there that our youth could do on a rainy day just sitting at home.”

Normally during the summer, 6,000 Tennessee kids would attend 4-H camp. This year due to COVID-19, that number is 0. Reaching them online and through the mail was the next best option to give them a camp experience.

Riley Taylor is a Moore County 4-Her who was looking forward to a return trip to Crossville, but since that was not possible, he liked camp in a box.

“It was amazing,” he said. “I rarely get anything in the mail, and I was really excited for it to come in... because I really wanted to do camp this year.”

Boxed up experiences cannot substitute for in-person fun, but this was a way of saying to the kids: “Campers we miss you!”

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