"We are about to go do archery and I'm excited. It's fun," said camper Camille Griffin.
Excited is an emotion that was strong throughout Delta State's campus as kids began their first day of Okra Camp.
Okra Camp is a summer day camp providing youth ages 6-8 and 9-11 a week-long opportunity to participate in structured indoor and outdoor recreation activities.
"So far so good. We’ve got a full crew of 180 kids and it’s the fifth year running," said Todd Davis, camp director.
"As long as the kids are having fun and as long as we're exposing. The main focus of this camp is to expose kids to things they wouldn't normally get to do and let them try things they wouldn’t try in the public school system.
“We have one of the most elaborate camps anywhere. I've been to camps all over Idaho and all over the state and there's just no camp like this," said Davis.
"Okra Camp is filling a significant need in our community for providing our youth with opportunities to develop lifelong recreational skills," said Leslie Griffin, dean of College of Education and Human Sciences.
“From the seed planted by our Healthy Campus/Community Initiative (partnering with the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation six years ago), Todd Davis’ commitment to reaching out to all youngsters in our community in an effort to expose them to opportunities for local and 'backyard' recreation has continued to grow over the years—surpassed only by his passion for the camp," added Griffin.
With all of the activities offered, it's guaranteed a camper will find something they enjoy. Activities include kayaking, canoeing, fishing, disc golf, swimming, floor hockey, interactive and team-building games, non-competitive team sports, and numerous other recreational activities.
"From one minute they're in the pool kayaking in kid kayaks to the next minute they’re out on the quad playing golf and then the next minute they're learning about nutrition.
It's an amazing camp when you can get all of these specialty areas covered in a day.
“They’ll do five activities a day, arts and crafts, and the focus is teamwork, being positive, being caring, being respectful, playing hard, playing fair, and playing nice," said Davis.
Davis said winning is not important at Okra Camp.
"We don't keep score and we're not about competition. It's all exposure, learning, and seeing. It's basically physical education and recreation all day. You have things you'd never do in P.E. like archery and BB guns. When can you expose a six-year-old to these kinds of things? It's pretty rare," he said.
"The college of education and human sciences really did a good thing when they partnered with Blue Cross Blue Shield because the whole focus is healthy lifestyles and purposeful living and I think we're teaching that.
"As a six-year-old I never got anything like this when I was a kid. We had sports camps and I hated them because they were all about drills and skills and coaches yelling at you.
“It was a really different environment and now we're all about having fun and high fiving and if you don’t make a target, oh well.
"We wanted to separate ourselves from sports camps because we're not just drills and skill we're all about exposure and fun and seeing what they can do. If they don’t like it that’s okay, in twenty minutes there's another activity," he said.
Each camper gets a backpack, water bottle, headband, and T-shirt.
"It's fun to see some of the kids that have been doing it for 5 years wear their T-shirts every day. That makes it special to me because I know they love the camp. I had some parents tell me that this morning when they went to get their kids up the kids were already up and dressed. If we can keep those kinds of environments going and partner up with other camps it'll be great," he said.
Davis said other camps are beginning in the area, including one in Clarksdale.
"That was kind of the intent, to take this and spread it around," he said.
Davis said there have been several fundraisers throughout the year to ensure the camp keeps going including the Down and Dirty event, the duathalon, a frozen yogurt day, and a dough raiser is currently in the planning process.
"We've replaced some old equipment and we'll talk about new activities for next year. I'd love to get one of those blow-up obstacle courses for the pool but they're $10,000. They're awesome and could be used for other things. Another thing I'd like to look at is the human soccer ball. They have kid sized ones you blow up and stick yourself through and you're a human soccer ball to run and bounce around but they're about $5,000.
We're going to constantly look at ways we can fundraise for this event so we don't have to raise the fee," he said.
For more information about Okra Kids Camp contact 662-846-4570.