Kids just think it’s summer fun, but camps can start
careers and change lives
By Carolyn Hughes Lynn
came from farms, suburban homes, and all walks of life from across the state.
One earned the Navy Cross. Another coached his team into the NCAA basketball
tournament. A third is heard by thousands of people each day. Another is an
environmental troubadour who has opened for some of country music’s biggest
have something in common: As youths, they attended summer conservation camps
operated by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.
Enoch was one of those kids. Later in life, he would dive under the Arctic ice,
become an initial member of the SEALs – the U.S. Navy’s Special Forces team
– and win one of the military’s highest honors.
camp and Enoch’s natural interests proved a good match. “I couldn’t play
basketball and I wasn’t much of a football player, but I did love to swim,”
got all the swimming he wanted while working as a lifeguard one summer at Camp
John W. Currie on
. It’s a story that became camp legend.
a teenager at the time, wanted to try a 10-mile endurance swim on the lake.
Another lifeguard and Doug Travis, the camp’s waterfront director, joined him.
swimmers coated themselves in Vaseline to keep warm, and then plunged into the
water at 4 a.m. while two people followed in a rowboat. The other lifeguard
couldn’t make the entire swim. Travis and Enoch emerged from the lake six
hours and 40 minutes later.
test of mettle helped Enoch decide his future. “Being involved in water safety
at camp had a major influence on my life,” he said. “I thought about it
years later – that’s what put me in the business I was in, in the Navy.”
was a tremendous swimmer when he left
to join the navy,” Travis said.
instructors taught more than just swimming, archery, boating, outdoor survival
skills, gun safety and fishing. They taught leadership and lifelong lessons.
“People like Doug Travis and the other conservation officers don’t just mold
you into good swimmers,” Enoch said. “They mold you into human beings.”
depended on those leadership skills while serving in the Navy during the Vietnam
War. He won the Navy Cross for actions taken one morning in
’s Mekong Delta.
four American SEALs and 10 of their South Vietnamese counterparts found
themselves encircled by a company of 80-120 enemy troops during a raid. During
the ensuing firefight, Enoch directed American planes to blast a hole through
the enemy’s position then led his troops to an escape.
one of Enoch’s soldiers was killed. Enoch learned he’d been nominated for
the Navy Cross after attending the soldier’s funeral.
twice retired, as chief gunner’s mate and
firefighter, Enoch lives northeast of
He serves as vice chairman of the local Quail Unlimited chapter and teaches
hunter education courses for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.
camper to college basketball coach
former camper is
basketball coach Rick Stansbury, whose team has won the SEC championship and
played into the NCAA tournament. Stansbury attended Camp Earl Wallace as a boy,
and then worked as a counselor and lifeguard at
while a college student.
Stansbury’s schedule keeps him out of the woods during deer and turkey season,
he always manages to squeeze in some fishing time at a lake near his home. “I
like to fish for largemouth bass,” he said. “It’s my main hobby, and keeps
things in perspective.”
understands the importance of conservation education. He even carried his baby
son into the woods to absorb its sights and sounds. “Kids need the opportunity
to experience nature,” said Stansbury. “Many take it for granted or don’t
1999 study of
high school students underscores the value of conservation education. Students
who attended both conservation class and camp continued to participate in the
hunting-fishing sports to a larger degree than students who attended class but
not camp. Students who didn’t participate in either were the least involved in
conservation camps, which first opened in 1945, initially were available only to
boys ages 9-16. Girls began attending the camps in 1955. By the early 1960s, the
school-camp program focused on fifth and sixth graders. Camps, which are open
from June to early August, now offer co-ed programs several weeks during the
season. Around 6,000
schoolchildren (ages 10-13) attend conservation camp each summer.
, the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources operates Camp Earl
; and Camp Robert C. Webb on
, near Grayson.
becomes radio star
girl went to camp because of Buck Shimfessel, the uniformed conservation leader
who came to her school. “He was so professional and kind. I wanted to be like
him,” Cindi Sullivan recalled.
the farm and garden director for WHAS radio in
, is heard by thousands of people each day.
convinced several friends that a week at
would be fun, and they weren’t disappointed. “The counselors were
entertaining and knowledgeable.
week goes fast because of all the activities and fun,” said Sullivan. “Part
of the fun was making new friends on my own, away from home.”
the first time, Sullivan shot a bow, guns, and tried to operate a motorboat.
“I was a miserable failure at the boats,” she said, “but the first time my
arrow nicked the target I was hooked.”
then, Sullivan was interested in green things. “Hiking the woods was my
favorite,” she said. “Whether we realize it or not, we all have a connection
went on to graduate from the
with a degree in agriculture. She is also a certified
nurseryman and arborist.
boy and set him on a pathway to simultaneous careers. Dale Crider, a retired
biologist and environmental musician, has appeared onstage with Tom T. Hall, the
Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, John Hartford and others.
who now lives in
, said his first stage was the flat hood of a jeep at
. Crider reveled in the outdoors, but had no idea anyone could make a living in
wildlife work until he met Doug Travis at camp. “He was a magic person,”
a few years, he would not be mimicking other artists, but composing and
recording his own bluegrass/ballad-style music with environmental themes.
“Singing renews a certain spirit,” he said. “It’s part of what we
worked 30 years as a duck biologist and environmental specialist with
’s fish and wildlife agency. Now he teaches 25 environmental workshops every
year in parks and youth camps for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation
WILD, a national resource program for schoolteachers, adopted one of Crider’s
songs, and even provides signing for the deaf and a brochure to explain the
becomes key leader at Kentucky Fish and Wildlife
a boy growing up in
, Tom Young used to watch
geese fly overhead and wonder where they were going.
conservation camp naturally appealed to Young, if he could only raise the money
it cost to go. “I mowed yards and did all kinds of things to save for the camp
fee,” he said.
had never been to any camp,” Young remembered. “The trip was an experience
in itself, and
looked like an ocean. It was fun earning patches. After camp I knew I wanted to
work for fish and wildlife.”
with a degree in wildlife biology. While working on a master’s degree, a
conservation education position opened in Hazard,
, and Young jumped at the chance. Eventually, Young became manager of Ballard
Wildlife Management Area. He finally saw where those geese were going.
who became deputy commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife
Resources in 1985, has since retired. “I achieved my goal in life when I was
hired in Hazard,” he said. ”Everything else has been gravy.”
more information about
’s school-camp program, please call 1-800-858-1549.