Bringing Kids Back to Nature

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Categories: Recreation/Leisure

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Summer at Camp Courage will be filled with things like field trips and fun in the great outdoors.

For just about anyone older than 30, childhood memories typically include being sent outside to play with strict instructions not to return until the streetlights turn on. Of course, for a variety of reasons (technology and ­safety, for example), these cultural memories are an endangered species. Video games mimic physical ­activities and sports. Smartphones offer instant access to movies and TV shows in the car, at the ­grocery store and ­anywhere else a phone signal ­permeates. It seems like the biggest challenge for parents nowadays is mitigating how much “screen time” children indulge in while gently­ ­nudging them to play ­outside. Camp Courage offers children an attractive outlet combining fun with the outdoors in a positive environment that instills a love for nature, and builds confidence and friendships for life.
    “We provide a way to ­discover something new,” says Camp Courage founder and director Jennifer Hayes. She and her husband, Ronnie, started the nonprofit organization six years ago. Wanting to create a ­summertime environment where kids “are not stuck inside four walls,” as Hayes puts it, the couple of over 20 years has worked hard to bring their faith-based youth camp to life.
    Camp Courage is a sort of buffet of outdoor activity for children ages 5 to 14. The template, essentially, is to load up a bus full of kids and spend the day immersed in exploration and building ­confidence. With activities ranging from hikes, fishing and archery to swimming, canoeing and the children find themselves less drawn to the virtual world of TV and video games and, instead, enjoying the real world. At first, some may be intimidated or self-­conscious of their abilities, but Hayes observes ­transformations in the kids every year.
    “Everyone has strengths and weaknesses,” she says. “But sometimes, the one thing we are afraid of is what we are good at.” Hayes has seen children balk at ­activities like canoeing, only to watch them thrive and fall in love with the activity. With encouragement and guidance from leaders and the small groups, children meet ­challenges and have fun, building self-esteem and ­confidence. Such experiences help prepare youngsters for their lives as adults, and ­parents notice improvement at school as well.
    The groups are small, with one leader per eight campers. Parents will be pleased to learn that campers engage in different field trips every week, so signing their children up for the full summer will not be redundant. In fact, parents can even pick different weeks for children, so no need to choose between summer camp and family vacation.
    Archery is one of the camper favorites at Camp Courage. Certified archery instructors will work with the children, teaching them about the sport and guiding them with form and aim. The sport reinforces Camp Courage themes, ­especially those of refocusing and concentrating on action. The symbolism of aiming for the target resonates with the spiritual side of Camp Courage as well.
    Registration is now open for summer day camp in Owasso. Children are dropped off at “Base Camp” between 8:30 and 9 a.m., and spend the day making ­memories. Parents may pick them up between 5 and 5:30 p.m. Before and after care is available also. Sessions run throughout June and July, and into mid-August.

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