By Hugh Lord
How do you start a fire without a lighter or matches? Well, at the Vashon Sportsmen’s Club Kids Camp, that is one of the things they teach you. Even once you know how, it’s still not easy, but if you keep practicing it starts to seem easier. Until it rains, then like in Fallout (a video game), you’ll need to upgrade your skills for another level of difficulty.
Kids Camp happens once every summer and lasts for a week; it re-started in 2022 after getting cancelled during COVID-19. Kids Camp usually has around 21 kids, six main activities or sections, with about 33 volunteers. Like the name says, the activities center on wilderness skills that are handy for camping. Safety is number one, number two is to learn, and number three is to have fun. Which includes s’mores.
This past July, the camp had the same six main activities as in 2022 when I went there for the first time. Fishing, survival skills like knot-tying, wood-cutting, making shelters, cooking meat on fires, archery, shotgun training, rimfire (precision target shooting with 22-caliber rifles), and lunch at 12:00 noon. This year I came back as a youth advisor, which is a teenager who is a helper to the head counselors and passes on experience to the newer kids. Which means you’re basically a mentor in training.
The camp is a long day, starting at 8:00 am and going until 4:00 pm. When I went there the first time, it was a big transition since it was the summer, I was sleeping in a lot, and had gotten used to staying up super-late. The first day in the camp, I was really tired and it put a strain on my cheerfulness. It also made it harder to pay attention. It was definitely easy to fall asleep early that night.
This year was a different challenge. It wasn’t easy for me to make the change from student to advisor because there were times where I had to hold back from arguing. Some of the campers seemed pretty tired, but the majority of them seemed to be doing a better job than I had on my first day back, even those who traveled in from off Island.
Most of the campers settled in by day three, but a few still struggled with some tasks, and there were some kids who were really good at other things. One camper named Chris seemed to be the best at shotgunning. While everyone else was randomly hitting and missing clay pigeons (flying targets), he was a natural who hit almost every single one. Whereas with rimfire the competition went back and forth between about ten kids over the whole week, with a very close final contest on Friday.
The Sportsmen’s Club is almost 100 years old now. It was built in the 1930s by community members led by the famous Japanese strawberry farmer Mr. Mukai. Rod and gun clubs were a popular idea at the time and many others were built all around the country. But, unlike most others that usually focused only on fishing and marksmanship, ours is somewhat unique and compares favorably by doing more.
The Club holds events through the year, some for kids such as a Trout Fishing Derby. Others are for adults, for example, earlier this month, there was a Chili Cook-Off. Family movie nights were held this spring and summer, there is a free pool table on the ground floor, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and scouting programs use it, and the Club House is sometimes rented for memorials or private parties by Sportsmen’s Club members.
Best of all, the Summer Kids Camp may expand into a full overnight program in 2024. I hope that happens, but either way will definitely plan to return as an advisor.