By Olivia McClure
Typically at this time of year, the LSU AgCenter 4-H staff is busy preparing for one of the youth development program’s most popular events: summer camp at the Grant Walker 4-H Educational Center in Pollock.
The campgrounds are unusually quiet, however, as they have been for months. Because several buildings sustained damage from hurricanes in August and October, there will be no summer camp at the facility for the second year in a row. Last year’s camp sessions were shifted to a virtual format amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Pine trees fell during Hurricane Laura, smashing into a bunkhouse, a log cabin, two outdoor pavilions and an arts and crafts building. Structures that managed to escape Laura unscathed were flooded a few weeks later when Hurricane Delta brought heavy rains.
“It’s a little sad,” said camp director Christine Bergeron. “This place is very busy, not only during the summer with 4-H camp, but also during the fall and spring because we’re a rental facility. We have groups out here almost every weekend. We haven’t had that. It’s been quiet. It’s been different.”
She and her staff are patiently waiting for the rebuilding process to begin. In the meantime, they’re making plans to travel around Louisiana this summer to conduct one-day events with educational and recreational opportunities for individual parishes. For information on the Camp Grant Walker Traveling Road Show, contact your local 4-H agent or 4-H program coordinator Adam O’Malley at email@example.com.
A fundraising effort also is underway to help fund repair projects. Donations can be made through the LSU Foundation by visiting https://bit.ly/3fhwMtj.
A group of 4-H agents from the Central Region recently did their part to get Camp Grant Walker ready to welcome kids again, too. They painted a new backdrop for campers to use in photos and put up new designs on bulletin boards in classrooms.
“Camp is near and dear to our hearts,” said Esther Boe, 4-H coordinator for the Central Region. “All of the agents were very excited to plan the activities and to come out here, and just to be at camp together. We hope one day to be back here with our kids.”
Attending camp and being away from home offers a chance to grow, said Evangeline Parish 4-H agent Kim Deville. Campers have responsibilities in their cabins and have to choose what “tracks,” or activities, they participate in.
For many, “it’s the first time they get to actually make choices and do things that they know they picked for themselves,” Deville said.
Camp also provides unique experiences that create lifelong memories, such as swimming in a creek and attending nightly dances with new friends from across the state under one of the pavilions that was damaged by Hurricane Laura.
“Camp is something we can’t really replicate somewhere else,” Boe said. “Camp is a special place.”