Ikes in Action: Outdoor Fun Starts by Unplugging

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Children at Izaak Walton Youth Camp

Indiana >> What happens when youth spend a week “unplugged” in the outdoors? Thanks to the Indiana Division of the Izaak Walton League, they have a lot of fun!

You can tell how special the Izaak Walton Youth Camp is by looking at the leadership. Camp director Stan Jaroz attended the camp as a child and became a junior counselor and lifeguard when he turned 16. He’s been running the camp for more than 20 years with his wife, Patty. In fact, most of the staff is made up of former campers. They are drawn back by what the camp stands for and the opportunity to guide new generations of campers.

Youth learn about camaraderie, conservation, and the Izaak Walton League. “All week, they go without computers, air conditioning, and electricity,” says Stan. “There are no video games, no cell phones. It’s an opportunity for kids to spend the week out in the wilderness and just have fun, just be kids.” Since its founding, several thousand youth have had the opportunity to explore the outdoors at this camp.

Kid with fish

The 57th annual Izaak Walton Youth Camp was held in July at Ross Camp in West Lafayette, Indiana. One hundred youth ages 9–15 spent their days canoeing the Wabash River, camping under the stars, fishing, and learning about the water cycle, reports Patty Jaroz. They also participated in gun safety and archery clinics as part of the Indiana Division’s focus on the R3 initiative to “recruit, retain, and reactivate” hunters and recreational shooting sports enthusiasts.

Each morning, campers gathered by the mess hall for the raising of the flag. Then they lined up, and the group in the straightest line went into the mess hall and were served first – definitely an incentive for hungry kids. In the evenings, campers learned line dances or hung out with friends, Patty says. Then they gathered around fire rings to get to know each other better, talk about the day, and learn camp songs.

At the end of the week, campers were tested on everything they had learned about the outdoors. There were awards for camper of the week, junior counselor of the week, and best archery, shooting, and angling participants in each of the four camp groups. Campers who scored tops on the test also received trophies. The Little Boys area won the golden paddle award for being the best group on the river. The Little Girls won the banner for having the most buttons in their jar, earned for good deeds during the week.

After the campers left with their parents, staff headed back home – and started making plans for next year.