Published July 2, 2019
Every year, 4-Clover 4-H campers congregate on the campus of Dodge City Community College with a mission to give back to the community.
The annual camps, which bring together kids from seven southwest Kansas counties, have been going on in Ford County since the 1930s, when they were held at the old Boy Scout Camp at Ford County Lake. The camps were moved to the DC3 campus in the mid-eighties.
In the past, campers have made decorations and table favors for Fort Dodge and local nursing homes, written letters and put together care packages for U.S. troops stationed overseas, made Christmas door decorations, and sewn cancer caps for chemo patients, among dozens of other projects.
This year, campers will plant a pair of trees on the DC3 campus.
“We appreciate Dodge City Community College and the staff there,” Andrea Burns, agriculture and natural resources agent for Ford County, said. “We always find a way to give back to the community during our camps, and this year we wanted to show our appreciation by giving back to the college.”
The trees were donated by Westar Energy and purchased at Nature’s Corner Garden Center and Nursery in Dodge City. A six-foot catalpa tree and a bubble gum redbud were planted Wednesday evening. Burns said the trees will produce showy, pink and white blooms every spring.
In addition to helping plant the trees, the kids learned about the plant science and specific horticulture. Burns said that the DC3 campus contains several different soil types, so the group consulted with Kansas Forest Service and the Westar Energy Green Team.
The college is always so gracious in helping us with the camps,” Burns said, “so we wanted to make sure the trees were good for the area and would thrive on the campus.”
The college tracks camp attendees, and Burns said that an “amazing percentage” of them come back as counselors for the camp and then as students at Dodge City Community College.
“It’s so neat to think that a lot of the kids who planted the trees today will be here as students one day,” Burns said. “They’ll walk past them every day and remember, ‘Hey, I planted that tree.’”
Campers stayed in Jackson Hall for the three-day, two-night camp. Meals were prepared camp-style – burgers and hot dogs on an outdoor grill and s’mores in the evening, “because every good camp has s’mores,” said Burns.
The theme for this year’s camp is “Inspire Kids to Do” – inspiring kids to actively learn and engage in the world around them. In addition to the tree planting, counselors will lead campers on a story walk on the walking trail around Lake Charles, fishing at the lake, as well as building and art projects.
The camps emphasize leadership skills, as well as practical skills like meal preparation and STEM learning. Part of the camp will be spent on Inspiring To Create, where the kids will make their own “calming jar” filled with a few tiny, favorite items floating in colored and glittered solutions that provide a satisfying and relaxing swirl inside. Other times will be devoted to STEM learning through Inspire To Build.
They finish up the weekend with a trip to the Longbranch Lagoon for a day of swimming and then a bowling and pizza party.
The annual camp is for seven- to ten-year-olds.
“For a lot of them, this is their first overnight experience,” Burns said.
The camp is sponsored by K-State Research and Extension offices in Clark, Ford, Grey, and Hodgeman counties and the Walnut Creek District.
By Scott Edger