By Pete Zamplas-People can kick up their heels in square dancing, play family games and savor tasty barbecue on Saturday, Oct. 12, at the Barbecue Ball to help fund the Henderson County Young Leaders Program at local camps.
The sixth annual HCYLP benefit dinner-dance will start at 4:30 p.m. at Camp Highlander, 3.5 miles down South Mills River Road from N.C. 280 in Mills River.
The meal is catered by Starr Teel, who owns Hubba Hubba Wood-fired Smokehouse in Flat Rock. He cooked up a Future Legends of BBQ contest for youth, benefiting Young Leaders for the past four years.
The ball begins 4:30-6 p.m. with live music and family activities such as face painting, and outdoor camp games organized by camp program directors. Adults have a reception, and silent auction.
Dinner is 6-7:30 p.m., in the dining hall. Square and country circle dancing is 7:30-9 p.m., in the 400-capacity gym. Whitewater Bluegrass Co. of Asheville plays, with “Uncle Ted White” the caller. The finale is joining together for s’mores and songs, at a campfire.
Admission is $75 per person, $100 per couple, or $125 for a family up to four people and $25 per family member beyond that.
Young Leaders Executive Director Diane Jacober told The Tribune how the five-phase camping program develops self-confidence, teamwork, respectfulness, and communication and other skills helpful in class, at home and later for work. “HCYLP believes that the camp experience provides unique opportunities for building character, leadership and resourcefulness in young people” via “a progressive program of residential camp, mentoring and educational experiences.”
Ultimately, she said, “most gratifying is seeing the students’ self-confidence boosted, such as when they canoe or climb up a rock wall. They adapt to new situations. We see transformation from a very scared to confident child. The camp is a new place. But once they participate, they usually feel more comfortable.”
Prospective campers are nominated by principals, teachers or counselors of the 13 elementary schools in the county, and the Boys and Girls Club in Hendersonville. A similar number of boys and girls are chosen. Jacober said about three-fourths qualify for free or reduced-fee school lunch; their families might not afford camp.
Others may be reserved but evidently bright children. “These are good kids,” said Jacober, who has taught locally. “Many are simply shy. Yet you can tell they have natural tendencies to lead. If they develop these skills, they can be outstanding leaders in our community.”
They are guided by seasoned camp counselors, and a few adult cabin leaders such as police officers and firefighters.
The first of five levels is Camp Bob weekend camp for 80 youths at a time at Episcopal-affiliated Kanuga Conference Center. It is held in September for third and fourth graders, in April for fifth and sixth-grade students. For 20 years, the forerunner to HCYLP was Camp Bob sessions for urban students, funded by church and other donations. HCYLP incorporated as a non-profit in 2007.
The next step for most impressive weekend campers is a weeklong camp, at Camp Ton-a-Wandah in Flat Rock. This has gone on in mid-August for the last five years, Jacober said. Whitewater rafting in the Pigeon River, swimming, archery and horseback riding are among activities for rising fourth to seventh-graders. Jacober said they learn “core values (character, community, sportsmanship, work, and fun) at the heart of Ton-A-Wandah.”
Each raft has six padders, and a trained guide telling them which side to paddle on to steer the craft. Jacober was in with non-swimmer youth. “They acted intimidated at first, before realizing ‘I’m safe’ with a life jacket on. Everyone was paddling together. It shows what you can do, if you coordinate and work together.”
Starr Teel noted camp is a “fun way for children to learn social skills. They learn roles in teamwork, and personal responsibility and accountability.”
The third level, Pathmakers, is monthly on weekends for 40 HCYLP “ambassadors” in grades 4-8. The site is the Boys and Girls Club, or in the field for community service such as cleaning school nature paths. Last holiday time at a Housing Assistance Corp. (HAC) senior citizen housing development, children made wreaths and baked cookies for elderly residents. Some played Christmas music, and many sang carols with the residents. “It’s important to learn to interact with someone different, such as older,” Jacober said. Pathmakers also involves art, journaling and basic cooking.
Next is broader camp interaction, with children from various states in summer residential camp for two to five weeks, for a summer or two. “Tuition” is fully donated by various local camps, with a $1,110 to $5,600 value, Jacober noted. Diamond Brand Outdoors provides some gear, and donations further help families equip youth.
The fifth and final phase is Leadership Education And Development (LEAD), in the school year for high schoolers. They are on “full scholarships.” They meet at Kanuga, the Chamber of Commerce or sites of service projects. In a home repair project last winter, they pressure-washed an elderly person’s home, and gathered fire wood. These teens “develop a (civic) vision, and set goals,” Jacober said. “They advance their verbal and electronic communication.”
To reserve ball tickets, call Diane Jacober at 697-2000. For more information, check www.hcylp.org.