Benjamin Logan students and friends A.J. Bergman and Owen Stratton hadn’t seen each other much in the last several months, following the statewide school shutdowns this spring as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
However, this week at the Kirkmont Center, the pair were reunited during a day camp, where they shared excitement after A.J. caught a largemouth bass while fishing on a pond at the 6946 County Road 10, Zanesfield, space.
“We’re having a lot of fun out here,” Owen said, relating that they each have experience fishing nearby their Rushsylvania area homes and at Indian Lake.
Other campers on Wednesday had the chance to sample wild honey and learn about beekeeping practices from Benjamin Logan teacher Bruce Smith.
“Seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces this week have been priceless. I think they’re just so glad to be out doing something again,” Kirkmont Center Executive Director Jim Sexstone said.
“We’re very happy to be open and serving Logan County; we feel very blessed through the kindness and donations of many people. For awhile, it was so uncertain whether we’d be able to have any camps this year at all because of the pandemic.
“There are many people that give of their time, talent and treasure that have made this possible.”
Just in the last month, camps in Ohio received clearance from the state to open facilities for activities this summer, with restrictions in place.
This week, Kirkmont Center began offering day camps for area youths, including a Bug-ology camp for ages 6 through 8 and a Wilderness Survival Camp for ages 9 through 13.
During the upcoming weeks, there are openings at a number of day camp sessions and also for several overnight camps, along with other unique outdoor offerings for area families, including Kirkmont’s popular new program, the “Rent-A-Cabent” package.
Sexstone said Kirkmont Center has worked with the Logan County Health District to facilitate its re-opening plans, along with following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Camp Association.
“The Logan County Health District has been a great resource, and we appreciate their time and consideration,” he said.
Other community partnerships have been forged during this recent unusual time, including with Homegrown Yoga Bellefontaine, which has conducted classes at Kirkmont Center’s pavilion, offering its participants with the space to spread out.
“We want to be part of the community and for our local residents to have the chance to experience this beautiful place,” Sexstone said.
As part of the safety measures, campers’ temperatures are taken when they arrive each day and check-in procedures have been updated to ensure that everyone who is attending camp is healthy, the executive director said. Campers also are encouraged to take their own water bottles along with them to promote good hygiene.
Staff in the kitchen is limited and those personnel are wearing masks. Additional handwashing stations also have been installed around the campgrounds, some even retrofitted inside a canoe with special plumbing.
The majority of camp activities also take place outdoors, where the potential to spread any type of illness is significantly reduced.
“We’re being very careful considering all issues with COVID, and we’ve made a pact with parents that we do everything we possibly can to keep their children safe while they’re here,” Sexstone said.
Continuing into this upcoming week at the 300-acre facility, day camps include “Sticky, Slimy, Squishy” for ages 6 through 8, with the chance to learn about “the grossest parts of nature,” such as pond scum and tree sap; and “Wet N Wild” for ages 9 through 13, which features ways to cool off in the summer heat and explore water environments at the camp.
Then July 13 through 17, Nature Wizardry day camps are offered detailing either “Magical Creatures” or “Enchanted Science,” where attendees have the chance to examine salamanders, owls and etc., or to study herbology and create their own “potions.”
July 20 through 24, “Budding Artists” camp is offered, where campers can try watercolor, sculpture and other mediums; “Art Adventure” where older pupils can experiment with new techniques and learn from a staff artist; and “Ultimate Wilderness Academy,” with lessons on fishing, shelter building and navigation.
In addition to the specific activities for each weekly session, traditional camping experiences, including swimming, archery, nature walks and crafts, are part of the day sessions as well, Sexstone said, noting that Kirkmont’s swimming pool is one of the few in the county that is currently open.
Overnight camps offered next month include Camp Rejoice from July 5 through 11 for ages 9 through 18, a time for young people to grow in their faith while engaging in the camp staples like canoeing, campfire vespers etc. PYC Overnight Camp takes place the following week in separate sessions for ages 9 through 12 and ages 13 through 18, also providing campers with the chance to engage in discussions about life and faith.
Alumni Weekend is planned for July 31 through Aug. 2 for individuals ages 18 and older at the cost of $75 per person, offering veteran campers with the chance to return to Kirkmont, which this year is marking its 57th anniversary.
Another adventurous opportunity offered at the Zanesfield area camp and conference and retreat center is the Rent-A-Cabent program, offering families the chance to stay overnight in a primitive “cabent” — a combination of a cabin and tent — at the cost of $50 per person per night for up to 10 people. Children age 5 and under are free.
The cost includes breakfast, a picnic lunch and dinner per night reserved, along with up to three-led activities, such as archery, nature hike, pool time, canoeing, fishing, candle-making, ax throwing and the climbing wall. Dogs, bikes and personal fishing equipment are permitted.
Former Kirkmont Center employee Pat Craig, who worked at the facility during the 1980s, and her family rented a cabent earlier this week and were enjoying their time together Wednesday.
“My kids pretty much grew up here, so it’s been a lot of fun for them to return to Kirkmont. This is where they learned to play solitaire and many other activities,” she said.
Booking availability for cabents and other camp facilities is available on Kirkmont’s website, www.kirkmontcenter.org, where day camp and overnight camp details and registrations also are available.
For further information, call (866) 496-3214, e-mail info, or visit the Kirkmont Center’s Facebook page.