MOUNT AIRY — Within a short drive of Elkin hides the Old Hickory Council of the Boy Scouts of America’s Camp Raven Knob where several local residents enjoyed time with scouts from 13 different states.
Continually upgraded facilities on more than 3,200 acres that includes its own lake and trails, the camp is ideally situated for the 4,000 scouts and 2,000 leaders who will have visited between June 17 and Aug. 4, according to Camp Director Keith Bobbitt.
“We are serving about 906 total for this week,” with an additional 120 staff members, said Dining Hall Manager Carol Hiatt, who was enthusiastic about the camaraderie among the staff and campers in spite of the exhaustion of serving everyone lunch in 20 minutes.
“We love the boys. They are like our grandchildren,” said Hiatt as she held a thank you note from Gavin Peppler of Troop #1131, who had a special dietary need. “We keep telling them we are going to adopt them. You miss them so bad when they’re gone.”
“It’s been a wonderful partnership,” said Kevin Cheek, Laurel District director for the Old Hickory Council of the Boy Scouts. “Carol’s been a part of our [Camp Raven Knob] family for about 15 years.”
Such longevity is not uncommon at the camp. Timothy Mains started working at the camp when he was 16 after coming as a scout and still makes it a point to be available to work during the summer.
“[Being at camp] developed me,” said Mains, who has worked in several areas including the Trading Post, handicrafts, construction and the kitchen. “When I started, I wasn’t a very vocal person. Now I can teach and am an authority in some aspects of the camp.”
Secondary teacher for welding, Jesse Sisson, was also once a scout in attendance who is now working at Camp Raven Knob. “[Being an instructor at camp] is opening the door to me becoming a teacher,” said Sisson. “It’s giving me the opportunity to find out at heart if I want to teach or not.”
“Jesse’s been a really good asset to our camp,” said Cheek as he described the variety of activities Sisson has been involved with.
“It’s the kids,” Sisson said. “They really make the experience.”
Among those experiences are a variety of activities intended to educate campers in citizenship, potential career skills and life tasks as well as hobbies and fun.
One of those undertakings is waiter duty. Trey Gephardt of Troop #648 explained, “Two people are chosen each day to clean up before and after everyone eats.”
“It’s better than just normal eating,” said Gephardt, “because you get to eat before everybody and get in the pool.”
The waiter system has been around a long time,” explained Cheek. “It teaches a little bit of responsibility.”
“Adult leaders learn a lot, too,” said Cheek, explaining how the differences in what a child is expected to do at home can impact their perspective of what they are expected to do at camp. “For some of them it’s a kind of chore. Some of them make it fun.”
For some learning can be fun as well. Allen Butcher of Troop #648 enjoyed the lessons on snakes and amphibians as well as geology. “[Those subjects] are in my field of expertise,” said Butcher. “I’ve always found that stuff interesting.”
Grayson Sebastion of Troop #658 also enjoyed the nature classes, appreciating learning “about animals and what happens a lot in nature.”
“I like the classes,” agreed Gavin Dill of Troop #655. “I like the different types of trees around here. I didn’t know there were that many. I like to learn about the different species of trees and animals.”
Although the various classes were enjoyed, it was the activities that were the stand-out favorites, possibly due to facility improvements.
“The upgrades in aquatics have been really nice as well as the shooting facilities,” said Troop #658 Scout Master Mike Pettyjohn.
Improvements in the facilities are not the only ones Arvil Sale has seen in his 45 years on staff at Camp Raven Knob, where he is a woodcarving instructor. “I enjoy seeing the development of the folks I work with,” said Sale, who had in recent years received an email from a camper who is now a successful songwriter in Nashville. “I knew him when he was a skinny 11-year old.”
Some of that development is an appreciation of home. Miles Belton liked many things about being at Camp Raven Knob, but one of his favorite things was “getting to see my parents because I haven’t seen them all week.”
“Sometimes [the heat] makes you appreciate home when you get home,” said Leif Mortesen of Troop #100, who has enjoyed his camp experience. “It’s fun to learn new things with my friends.
“We’ve had a great staff,” said a grateful Bobbitt. “We have tremendous volunteers from this area to keep this camp all year. They are dedicated volunteers in every aspect of the camp.”
Those efforts were appreciated by the campers. “I’ve had so much fun,” said Isaiah Huse from Florida Troop #641. “It’s the best time I ever had.”
Beanie Taylor can be reached at 336-258-4058 or on Twitter @TBeanieTaylor.