My Favorite Place at Camp: Backtrack Edition

This is Backtrack, the Summer Camp kayak instructor (beginning 2016). Her birthday is in January, so this month we are featuring her in the very first blog post in the "My Favorite Place on Camp" series. Check it out!

"I'm the 'Queen of the Cove!' Haha, but actually, the cove is my favorite place on camp. It's not only the prettiest place to work here, but I get to see kids develop skills in kayaking that they never thought they could. It's awesome that campers can gain confidence in something like kayaking that they can take to other areas in their lives like public speaking. I see kids develop into leaders and teens master their leadership skills during my class and that's really my favorite thing about camp. Sometimes I like to go sit by the cove and I think, 'man... it's cool that I get to work here.'"

Thanks for sharing, Backtrack! See you at the cove!

Rockin' Reunions... Is Your Family Game?

Ah, the holidays... when Great Aunt Mabel and Grandma Sue recall those times when it was easy as pie to get the family together, then turn to the younger generation with encouraging smiles and pats on the shoulder, asking you to make it happen. Sound familiar?

So frequently we hear our summer camp participants wishing they could bring their entire family out here to the 4-H Center. When we tell them that many people do, in fact, hold their family reunions at the Center, they are blown away. Here are some tips on creating a seriously rockin' family reunion with our help!

  • Plan early. We book many of our weekends and events a year in advance, especially those prime weekends. We also have weekends that are blacked out for certain program areas (High Ropes, Pool, Waterfront). To get the most out of the weekend, make sure you get your reservation in early!
  • Know your group. For larger family reunions, we can sometimes want to overbook. Is your family 500+ people who like adventure, or something more like 100 who want to bring their own food? No matter your size or preferences, we can accommodate, but save your own sanity by polling your folks first. Many folks don't mind bringing their own linens for discounted rooms, and still others want to experience the most luxury we can offer. We are a single facility with a single price, and we build in the food and programming according to your needs.
  • Don't underestimate the power of programming. We offer tons of wonderful recreation options as well as programmed classes. Our Program Director, Jessie McKeon, says, "One of my favorite family reunion memories was at Callaway Gardens. My grandparents had booked us rooms at the Inn that came with free entry to all of the learning centers, too. My sister and I took a lot of the cousins to the 'Birds of Prey' show and learned about different raptors like hawks, eagles, and owls. It was incredible!" Just like that prestigious conservation institution, the W.E. Skelton 4-H Center is focused on education and we can offer similar 1-hour experiences for your family. Just ask!
  • Make it unique. From theme parties (70s vibe, anyone?) to a fancy dinner to adopting a trail, there are so many options when you bring your family to a facility that is used to summer camp and week-long conferences. Get creative, and we are right behind you supporting that idea!
  • Ask questions. Don't understand the menu? Ask about it! Want to bring your own grill for Saturday night? Ask about it! You'd be surprised by the requests we receive and are all too happy to help you with.
  • Pack more than you think you need. Groups are responsible for their own toiletries and first aid. Kids always need a snack. Board games are the best bored games! 

To start the conversation about your family reunion or other event out here at the Center, contact Nina Brooks, our conferencing manager: ninabrooks@vt.edu

Giving Thanks at the 4-H Center

November is traditionally the season for giving thanks. At the end of an incredible season, it's nice to sit back with maybe some hot chocolate and reflect on the year before jumping into the planning of the next one. Here's what some of the staff are grateful for:

Jessie McKeon (Program Director) - I am super thankful for all of our helpful 4-H Extension Agents and the amazing things they do for the programs here at the 4-H Center. I am also thankful that I get to be a Virginian by choice and take in the spectacular beauty that surrounds us, no matter the season. As a native Texan, I'm happy to enjoy seasons here in the Blue Ridge Mountains!

Nina Brooks (Conferencing Manager) - I am thankful for co-workers who have become second family, and for the positive influence the Center has on our community.

Rayna Wheeler (OE Coordinator) - I am very thankful for the teachers that work so hard to schedule field trips and bring their students to the 4-H Center for a unique outdoor education experience. I’m also incredibly thankful for such a beautiful facility that allows us to give students incredible experiences surrounded by natural beauty. 

Kim Perdue (AE Coordinator) - I am thankful for not only a wonderful group of co-workers but for all of our terrific families that jump in to help out when needed.

Lauren Brennan (Executive Administrative Assistant) - I am thankful for the legacy left to the 4-H Center by Lowell Gobble. He left such an impact on so many of our agents and 4-Hers, and it's amazing to see the gifts that honor his memory. I always feel thankful when I see the open-hearted giving from our extended community. 

Donna Gish (Food Service Staff) - I am thankful for life, family, and happiness... that includes my 4-H family, too!

Walter Heath (Fall Program Staff) - I'm thankful to be back in Virginia and to be spending this season at one of my favorite places in the world. Teaching kids the value of nature is not only important, but it's really, really fun! Thanks, Dubb-E!

Rita Cline (Food Service Staff) - I'm thankful for my family; I've got two new wonderful daughters-in-law! I'm also thankful to share shifts with my friend Donna quite a bit. I sure do miss her when she's not here!

Comment below to let us know what you are thankful for!

Geocaching Returns to the Skelton 4-H Center

Recently, we had a conferencing group ask if they could use our geocaching course as part of their teambuilding retreat. This course had kind of fallen into disrepair - many of the caches had been removed, and the markers for the course had fallen victim of weather and other natural issues.

We knew it was time to update, and boy, what an update it got! Our old friend and former staff member Ranger came out to give us a hand in updating the caches. He remade the entire course so that you can use a GPS unit or a map and compass to navigate from a starting point to the cache. Inside we have real journals, some Skelton geoswag, and hopefully soon we can boast geoswag from all of the folks who have used our course.

If you or your group want to go geocaching, let us know. It's easy to add to any program or retreat!

Can you guess where the caches are in the pictures below? Comment and let us know.