REIDSVILLE, N.C. – “A leap of faith,” was an accurate description for the dilemma in which Anthony Hudgins Jr., the son of Army Staff Sgt. Anthony Hudgins, found himself. He stood atop a 30-foot telephone pole and the only way down, without the benefit of gravity, was a trapeze just out of reach.
The phrase also describes what 51 of his newest friends did at the North Carolina National Guard Youth Camp at the Betsy-Jeff Penn 4-H Educational Center June 23-28.
“I am not sure what was shaking more, me or the pole,” said Anthony Hudgins Jr.
He met the challenge with a mix of fun and fear.
Similar drama replayed over the camp’s 200-acres of hills, fields, forests, streams and lake.
Campers tested their skill and discipline with archery, horseback riding, canoeing, climbing wall and ropes course, arts and crafts, environmental education, athletics and team building.
“Our (NCNG) child and youth programs are the best kept secret in the Guard,” said Alice Dean, state youth coordinator.
The camp was free of charge for children of North Carolina National Guard soldiers and airmen. The first-come, first-served registration was held statewide for all families of Guard members.
"Camp for my three children and a niece was way out of reach,” said Army Staff Sgt. Danielle Cotton, a training noncommissioned officer with the headquarters of the 30th Armored Brigade Combat Team, headquartered in Clinton, N.C.
Cotton further explained that financially, she feared she wouldn’t have the ability to send all of the children to camp at once.
This was so much of a concern that she thought she might have to decide how many of the children would be able to attend?
The fact that the camp was free really took a burden off of her shoulders.
Destiny Morell, daughter of Army Staff Sgt. Michael Lanasa, met her challenges too. She balanced herself precariously across a narrow log about 40-feet off the ground tied and secured between two trees.
“I thought I was gonna fall, many, many times but I made a goal of making it all the way,” said Destiny.
Not every event requires ropes, cables, a helmet and a strong tolerance for heights.
“Every kid finds something they really enjoy,” said the camp’s summer program director, Stacy Burns.
The camp’s events are not just recreation but growth.
“It allows children to develop confidence and leadership,” said Burns.
All good things come to an end and after quite a week, it was time to go home. Children carrying sleeping bags, clothes, and everything else you need for a week from home shuffled into the recreation hall.
The children’s luggage lined the walls as they darted back and forth with pens in hand to sign each others’ camp tee shirts. Hugs, handshakes, laughter and a few tears marked the parting of new friends as parents arrived.
“It felt like home,” said Anthony Hudgins Jr.