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Camp High-Tor heightens summer fun, learning opportunities for youths

By Carlee Lammers, Staff Writer
F. BRIAN FERGUSON | Putnam Review Campers at Camp High-Tor enjoy playing in the woods at the camp on Thursday morning.
F. BRIAN FERGUSON | Putnam Review Hundreds of kids will spend part of their summer at Camp High-Tor, the Tri-County YMCA’s 52-acre summer camp.
F. BRIAN FERGUSON | Putnam Review Camp counsler Eli Gillispie pushes campers on the swings at Camp High-Tor.
F. BRIAN FERGUSON | Putnam Review Camp High-Tor is seeking donations and volunteers to help repairing some of the grounds.

After a day full of swimming, hiking, science, crafts and games, 9-year-old Gabby Epling is exhausted. But, that’s not going to stop her from waking up bright and early the next morning to come back to her favorite summer spot: Camp High-Tor.

Gabby, a rising fourth-grader at Winfield Elementary School, is one of hundreds of kids from kindergarten to age 17 spending part of their summer at Camp High-Tor, the Tri-County YMCA’s 52-acre summer camp.

She’s attended camp for the last three or four years, and said she’s made lasting friendships and memories.

“We’re Putnam County’s best-kept secret,” said Camp Director Angel Anderson.

Throughout the summer, hundreds of kids attend the day camp where they participate in activities such as swimming, science, nature activities, crafts, American Sign Language and Spanish activities, and sports and recreation. Through a partnership with Putnam County Schools, two teachers come to Camp High-Tor twice a week to help prevent summer learning loss.

Campers can come to High-Tor for a single week, several weeks or even the entire summer, Anderson said.

Campers in kindergarten through eighth grade are led by counselors and counselors in training — those who have finished ninth grade, but are under 18.

High-Tor, which is Scottish for “beautiful overlook,” has a new theme each week. Activities are planned each week to coincide with the new theme.

This week’s theme is “love your #SELFIE,” which will teach kids about self-esteem.

“It’s about loving yourself and liking who you are,” Anderson said. “We’re all different in our own way.”

Camp High-Tor aims to integrate the YMCA’s core values of caring, honesty, respect, responsibility, character and faith in each activity.

“Our main focus is the social-emotional element. Teachers, who I respect so much, are put under so much pressure to teach as much information as possible and raise test scores. We just literally have 11 hours out of the day to develop their social and emotional growth, conflict resolution, build self-esteem and independence,” Anderson said.

A sign that is displayed as campers leave Camp High-Tor reads “We build strong kids, strong families, strong communities.”

Counselor Noah Gillispie said his experience at Camp High-Tor embodies those goals entirely.

“It’s the most fun job — and the most rewarding. I get to go and make an impact on these kids’ lives,” Gillispie, who is serving his fourth summer at Camp High-Tor, said. “A lot of them don’t have a lot of people to look up to. I just try to be that person. It’s hard, but it’s so much. There’s just something special about it.”

For Gillispie, being a counselor is a way to see a child grow — while still getting to do fun things like swimming, playing games and making tie-dyed shirts.

“A lot of them don’t realize they already have those values in themselves,” he said. “We’ve had some kids who are rough at the beginning of the summer. But once they are given some responsibility and are shown that their counselors and the staff believe in them that they can do the right thing — they turn around and are good by the end of the summer.”

Camp High-Tor is still seeking donations — either monetary or help repairing some of the camp grounds. Anderson said even something as simple as repairing a picnic table or a pavilion would go a long way to help the hundreds of campers that come to High-Tor all summer.

For more information or to donate to Camp High-Tor, visit tri-countyymca.org or call 304-757-0016.

Reach Carlee Lammers at Carlee.Lammers@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-1230 or follow on Twitter.


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