If only every event could have a pre-event hype of some sort to build up anticipatory excitement! The Fake Out Campout GHC hosted on April 23 was organized as a way to prepare would-be campers for a real camping trip scheduled for the following week, out at the Chickamauga Battlefield. This was to be an afternoon preparation session, where the kids could practice the ins and outs of camping, getting jitters out and asking questions about the kinds of challenges and delights involved in camping. Amid palpable excitement, there were real anxieties to discuss, such as going to the bathroom outside.

There to answer questions and assuage fears was instructor, Terri Chapin, who came out as the representative from the camping trip’s primary partner, Outdoor Chattanooga. She helped the fifteen participants feel more at ease about spending the night in the great outdoors, as this would be a completely new experience for 90% of the group.

The goal was to practice setting up the tents, building a fire, and packing equipment. Additionally, Chapin gave a mini-lesson in poisonous plant and animal identification. Using just an empty lot across from Sandi’s Mini Mart on Glass Street, next door to the Old Post Office, the youths, ranging in ages from 5-15 imagined what it would feel like the following weekend, to explore the natural environment. Campout-style snacks were provided by the YMCA.

Any children that were too young to attend the real campout the following week certainly have their appetite for adventure whetted by the Fake Out Campout experience. They are now looking forward to the time when they are old enough (8 years old, minimum), to come along.

Event leader, Nicole Lewis later reflected that the event was an act of courage, as a local drive-by shooting emergency took place only 30 min. prior to the Fake Out Campout. The kids’ determination to participate in spite of the danger reflects their amazing sense of curiosity about the world and experiencing new things together. It’s also a testimony to the trust built up between Lewis and other adult volunteers and the youths’ parents.  “They know me,” she says, “they’re in it for the ride with me. These kids could walk off and refuse to participate, but they trust me enough and allow themselves to be encompassed by childlike wonder.”