Annette Hayden Havre Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org
The 19th Annual HELP Camp catered to the growing needs of more than 70 local fifth- through eighth-graders this week. The HELP, which stands for Havre Encourages Long-range Prevention, camp is a three-day lifestyle retreat, which was held Tuesday through Thursday at McKenzie Hall on the Montana State University- Northern campus. A wild schedule of wide-ranging activities were coordinated by the HELP Committee of the Boys & Girls Club of the Hi-Line. Club staff members were assisted in operations by more than 20 junior staff members all previous graduates of HELP Camp who dedicated themselves to three days of training in preparation of volunteering their time and energy at the camp. This year's theme offered “An Ocean of Opportunities," coordinators said, including four intriguing working sessions. Solve it "Escape from Death Island" was the problemsolving workshop led by Jay Schuschke, Tobacco Use Prevention Program coordinator. Campers broke up into groups to find a solution to several scenarios, one of which was to use a tiny raft of two boards to build a bridge to cross "toxic" water as a monster threatened to eat them. Campers had to figure out how to get their team of six across. Campers also had to get each team member through a giant spider web rope. The trick was to not touch the web or be bitten by radioactive spiders, while safely escaping from the island, the kids said. The class was aimed at team-building, which most of the kids caught onto quickly. "I learned that you have to work together with people around you," said 11-year-old Vinnessa Lundstrom. "We had to brainstorm as a team to help figure out problems," added Kayla Turner, 13. Go green "Land Ho Not Land Fill," a workshop on going green, led campers to create their own skits about recycling, saving the animals and eating healthy. Props were provided for the campers and the categories for the skits were written on slips of paper. They also participated in a relay race with recyclable items and garbage inside a bag. Campers had to quickly distinguish and distribute the recyclable items into recycle bins and put garbage into a garbage bin. The teams were judged on the items they categorized correctly. Youth Development Specialist Priscilla Presnell and Youth Development Assistant Lexa Loch led the class. "I learned to buy eco-friendly hair products that don't kill the ozone layer," Kelli Reynolds, 12, said. "Recycle and not pollute," 12-year-old Taylor Stokes said. Relationships A third workshop, led by Youth Development Specialists Kate Hillson and Matthew Buerkle, pointed out there are "Plenty of Fish in the Sea" And focused on healthy relationships. Campers watched a video about teenage couples where either the male or female was being mentally or physically abused by their companion. A discussion about the video followed. Students then went to a Web site where they answered multiple choice questions about dating or relationship situations, and when they had the right answer the program awarded them items for compiling a music video. "We found out that abusiveness in relationships starts around the sixth-grade, by eighth-grade it can be heavy." Said Emmett Hayden, 14. "If you have a relationship with someone else then you need to start it with respect," 10-year-old Patrick Hodges of Great Falls said. "You need to respect the other person's feelings, split expenses together, not be overpowering not tell them what to do ... ," said 11-year-old Lauren Christopher. "If you have respect for them then they should respect you." Gossip The final workshop, "Commotion in the Ocean" investigated the dangers of gossip. The game Telephone illustrated how the truth can quickly get mixed up and turned into a harmful rumor, Youth Development Specialist Dawn Rathbun and Youth Development Assistant Buck Christofferson showed the kids. Four junior staffers demonstrated. The first one told another "I caught a slug." The fourth staffer said they heard "I do drugs." Campers also staged skits about gossip and what it does to a person and the dire situations rumors can lead to. "I learned that if I hear a rumor not to pass it on. I should confront the person that started it and also not to start a rumor yourself," 13-year-old Adam Hutson said. Right track These and other camp activities centered on preparing teens for the life choices they will make. "Lets face it the Middle School years can be tough," the camp pamphlet said. "There are a lot of things going on that can confuse, tempt or lead to potentially dangerous situations. HELP Camp is an opportunity for students to get together to learn and practice some pretty important life skills. We believe in the youth of today and their abilities to make this world a safer place for future generations. Camp will enlighten students about what they can do to make a difference and camp reunions will be held to reinforce skills taught. At the same time HELP Camp is about having fun and making new friends!" Another facet of HELP Camp addressed problems associated with alcohol, tobacco and other drugs in life situations, including a film directed by Montana Department of Transportation Director Jim Lynch about seat belt safety, room to live and alcohol related crashes. "Over the last five years, 70 percent of crash deaths were not wearing their seat belts, studies show the majority would have lived if they had," Lynch said. Success Jill Williams, HELP Camp director, said the camp was "very successful." She thanked the junior staffers for going "above and beyond" and being "so involved." She also thanked Pizza Pro and Dairy Queen for providing the treats for the campers' dance, and many others who contributed to the camp. Williams said, for her, a highlight of this year's camp was the results of campers' community service efforts. "I am floored at the results," she said. "The kids were divided into small groups (six groups) and each group given seed money of $50. They had to decide how much they could turn that into for charity. In one and a half hours campers raised $1,300." Each group came up with an idea of something to sell to make money. They used their seed money to purchase supplies, make the product, a poster then walked to a location and set up shop. Only the actual planning was performed the night before. All other aspects were completed in the hour and a half. "I want to congratulate all of the campers who participated in the fundraiser," Williams said. "Half of the teens decided they would contribute their profits to Relay for Life and the other half decided to donate to the Hi-Line Sletten Cancer Center." During the closing session Thursday, checks were presented $501.65 for Sletten and $785.94 to Relay for Life. "Thank you for your efforts," said Christen Obresley, executive director of the No r t h e r n Mo n t a n a He a l t h Ca r e Foundation, who accepted the donation for the Sletten Center. "It is great to hear of young people engaging in philanthropy, and to raise so much in an hour and a half? You did a great job!" Set sail The camp concluded with awards and prizes, including camper Patrick Hodges and Rainy Stoner who both won "Happy Camper," Maggie Hodges and Sean Harper awarded for "Most Helpful," and Alexia Olson and Brandon Nicholson who were voted by their peers as the two most wanted to join the junior staff next year. All campers went home with beach towels, beach balls and other theme-related gifts. "Annually we have been able to provide the camp and keep fees to parents nominal because of two grants," said Krista Solomon, Boys & Girls Club of the Hi-Line executive director. "One is the Montana Out of School Time grant and the other is a Drug Free Communities Grant." Enrollment in the camp included a oneyear membership to the Club. Next year will mark the 20th anniversary of the HELP Camp and coordinators said camp in 2009 will be a celebration.