The number one thing participants in the Georgia Wildlife Federation’s Georgia’s Camp Charlie wanted to change about the program was to add an another day! You can see why in some of photos from that fun-filled weekend. Campers were able to canoe into the refuge, search for the elusive Red-headed woodpecker, find wildlife with ONWR rangers in ponds, fishing, telling stories around the campfire and many other outdoor activities. We’re looking forward to the next Camp Charlie already.
Georgia’s Camp Charlie kicked off this past weekend with a great start at Trader’s Hill in Folkston, GA and inside the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. Five families had the opportunity to connect with nature and learn about careers in the outdoors through a fun-filled weekend of camping, canoeing and other outdoor adventures.Georgia’s Camp Charlie is a planned weekend of camping and hands-on outdoor activities focused on family learning and fostering respect for the environment through positive experience in the outdoors and will be the main focus of GWF’s youth outreach.. This pilot program is a partnership between the Georgia Wildlife Federation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It is designed for families who would like to experience the outdoors, but who may lack the knowledge, skill, equipment, or self-confidence necessary to go-it-alone.
Georgia’s Camp Charlie at the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge was generously funded by the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Youth in the Great Outdoors initiative with matching funds from Plum Creek Foundation. Plum Creek is the largest private landowner in the country and has major timber operations in Charlton County. The foundation is committed to supporting non-profit organizations that improve the quality of life in the communities where Plum Creek operates.
With support from Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Okefenokee Adventures, GWF and FWS staff and volunteers, campers were guided through an exciting weekend of outdoor activities including canoeing in the refuge, bird watching, fishing, a pond study, storytelling and tent camping. For many campers, it was the first time they were able to participate in these activities, which play such a vital role instilling a love of the outdoors in children.
“This was a wonderful opportunity for these families to explore some of the many resources available for getting involved in the outdoors together,” said GWF District 11 Board Member Joy Campbell, who coordinated the event on behalf of the GWF board. “So often we’re not aware of what’s available in our own backyards and think getting the family together outdoors has to be difficult and complicated. I hope this will be the beginning of many more outdoor adventures for these families. “
One of the functions of Camp Charlie is to introduce students and children to different environmental occupations and opportunities for employment. Role models in the Camp Charlie program are called “mentors” and are natural resource or wildlife professionals as well as people who have volunteered to share their love of the outdoors. The children were able to meet and discuss many exciting career opportunities with biologists, visitor service directors, tour guides and other outdoor professionals.
Camp Charlie is a planned weekend of camping and hands-on outdoor activities focused on family learning and fostering respect for the environment through positive experiences in the outdoors. The program is designed for suburban and low-income families who would like to experience the outdoors, but who may lack the knowledge, skill, equipment or self-confidence necessary to venure out alone.
“As more and more people move to urban and suburban areas, they are consequently more removed from the natural land and ‘real’ outdoors,” said Terry Tatum, Vice President of Development of the Georgia Wildlife Federation.”Plum Creek’s funding will help us bring awareness to these people that are more naive than ever before about their relationship with nature and how their actions affect the environment.”
One of the main functions of Camp Charlie is to introduce families, students and children to different environmental occupations and opportunities for employment. Every family who attends Camp Charlie is assigned a mentor, natural resource or wildlife professional as well as volunteers who share the love of outdoors. Mentors show the possible passion for the outdoors and help families make a pledge to do something for the environment in their community.
“Plum Creek applauds the efforts of the Georgia Wildlife Federation to educate the community on sustaining our water resources, protecting forests, plant life and dependent wildlife,” said Rob Hicks, senior resource forester for Plum Creek. “Nature is something you have to experience to fully appreciate, and we are proud to be part of this pilot program that is certain to establish stronger connections between the community and the environment.”
Camp Charlie at the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge will take place in March. We’ll need plenty of volunteer support in South Georgia as the camp approaches. This will be the first Georgia Camp Charlie, which will become a statewide program.