(BPT) - Each year, millions of youth migrate out of the classroom and into the great outdoors to experience one of America’s most classic traditions — camp.
And while campers are busy experiencing the excitement of their unique adventures, they may not realize the hugely positive impact that’s happening behind the scenes that will leave a lasting impression for years to come.
But being a camper comes with a price tag, leaving many interested youth unable to participate and reap its benefits. Believing that no adolescent should be denied the ability to attend camp and experience the impact, Tractor Supply Company teamed up with 4-H to bolster its nationwide camps that develop leadership and life skills.
Since 2016, Tractor Supply, the largest rural lifestyle retailer in the nation, has raised more than $3.6 million in scholarships for youth to attend 4-H camps, conferences and other leadership experiences across the country through its biannual Paper Clover fundraiser.
In 2017, the retailer saw a record-breaking year raising more than $1.8 million, impacting more than 37,000 students, thanks to generous online and in-store donations from customers.
“The Paper Clover fundraiser is an engaging, unique way for Tractor Supply to play a direct role in the lives of thousands of students across the country,” said Christi Korzekwa, senior vice president of marketing at Tractor Supply. “There’s truly no better way to foster a child’s development, confidence and leadership skills than by giving them the opportunity to attend camp.”
Research shows youth who participate in 4-H are four times more likely to contribute to their communities and twice as likely to be civically active, among many other benefits. One could argue this is due to 4-H camps, programs and other experiences providing participants opportunities to learn by doing, grow from failure, express their ideas and use their influence to drive positive outcomes.
Garrett Franck, 12, of Union County in Pennsylvania, is an active member of the Good Time 4-H Club in Mifflinburg and has been attending 4-H camp for five years. According to Franck, camp sessions allow youth like him to explore new interests and build unexpected friendships.
“Through attending camp, I've made friends from different counties that I may not have met otherwise,” said Franck. “We look forward to seeing each other year after year and catching up. I’ve also learned so much about teamwork, and I really feel like I've grown as a 4-H member — and a person in general — by attending camp.”
Garrett’s mother, Barbara, is a 4-H club leader herself and has put all three of her children in the program.
“4-H is a program that has something for everyone, and it allows for new experiences that other youth organizations may not be able to provide,” said Franck. “4-H camps are an important piece of the puzzle for strengthening the foundation of understanding the importance of traits like responsibility, time management skills and teamwork.”
In addition, 4-H camps have been found to promote the following life skills in youth:
1. Self-confidence. Successful participation in camp activities helps kids validate their own capabilities. Environments like 4-H camp require campers to think and act on their own. As a result, children who experience themselves as competent will be better problem-solvers in new situations.
2. Freedom to explore new interests. Camp programs provide structured, extracurricular activities where youth are able to enjoy hands-on engagement. This is a priority at 4-H camps, where campers are provided ample opportunities to deep-dive into new activities and programs that they otherwise wouldn’t have the chance to. This type of structure allows campers to decide whether or not an activity or program speaks to their passions enough to continue pursuing.
3. Communication skills. Spending focused time with other youths of similar ages and interests can help campers build relationships and create a sense of connectedness. Meeting and getting to know new peers are the social skills most often reinforced in 4-H camp settings. No matter the level of social skills a camper possesses, communication is a vital developmental ability that should continue to be practiced.
4. Independence. Taking a step away from a typical, day-to-day environment can empower campers, teaching them how to handle themselves and make good decisions outside of their comfort zones. Camp plays a role in this by creating a setting where youth are required to develop a sense of autonomy — by taking more responsibility for themselves and their belongings and making their own decisions. In turn, stable identities and empowerment are the result.
Even if your days of being a camper are over, your days of making the experience possible for adolescents in your community are not. Tractor Supply’s Paper Clover Fundraiser returns Oct. 3-14 at the retailer’s 1,725 stores and online. To learn more about the fundraiser and the retailer’s support of 4-H clubs nationwide, visit Tractorsupply.com/4H.
To find a 4-H club in your area, visit 4-h.org/find/.