Marylin May, Sabine Parish recipient of a scholarship to 4-H camp from the
New Orleans Pelicans and Saints professional sports teams, stands with her
4-H agent, Nan Arthur.
When Colin McGee of Lafayette Parish first found out that he had been diagnosed with cancer, his thoughts immediately went to the things that he would miss the most during his time in treatment. 4-H camp was on the top of his list.
As the 2018 4-H Summer Camp season approached, McGee’s friends raised money and assembled a gift basket from the 4-H camp store for Colin. Colin treasured those gifts, hoping he could attend 4-H camp the next summer.
After months of challenging, but successful treatments, Colin finally attended camp in 2019 with the help of a generous gift from the New Orleans Saints and Pelicans professional sports teams that provides one child from each of Louisiana’s 64 parishes with a scholarship to 4-H camp.
“Through the support of the New Orleans Saints and Pelicans, Louisiana 4-H agents are able to not only extend the opportunity of summer camp to a young person but also instill an opportunity to gain valuable life skills that are learned through 4-H camping experiences,” said Toby Lepley, LSU AgCenter associate vice president for 4-H and Youth Development.
The scholarship program began in 2019 with a $57,600 donation from the New Orleans Saints and Pelicans organization and will continue for three more years.
“We are committed to developing our youth and know that these scholarships will help students achieve their educational, leadership and extracurricular goals,” said New Orleans Saints and Pelicans President Dennis Lauscha.
Sabine Parish 4-H awarded the Saints/Pelicans Camp Grant Walker Scholarship to Marilyn May from Many Junior High School during a morning fifth and sixth grade meeting before testing. Marilyn also received a beach bag full of items for camp. Marilyn loves 4-H and summer camp, but her mother, a single mom of two girls, had confided in their 4-H agent, Nan Arthur, that it was going to be difficult to send both girls to camp. So, after the announcement of the camp scholarship program, Arthur found the solution.
Clayton Greer from Natchitoches Parish lost his father in the fall of 2018 in a hunting accident during a father and son hunt. Clayton’s family and local 4-H staff and volunteers began thinking of ways they could help Clayton live out positive childhood experiences. 4-H Summer Camp was one answer.
“He participated in the wetlands educational track, and he loved it,” said Natchitoches Parish 4-H agent Pam Pearce. The educational tracks and making new friends were his two favorite things, she said.
Gayle Benson provides leadership for the New Orleans Saints and New Orleans Pelicans as owner, succeeding her husband, Tom Benson, who died in 2018. Gayle Benson is a New Orleans native and an accomplished business professional and philanthropist with strong ties to the community.
The Gayle and Tom Benson Charitable Foundation was established in 2007and primarily serves the community through donations, grants and investments based on specific criteria and requirements directed by the foundation board led by Gayle Benson. The foundation, along with the Saints and Pelicans, launched the awards for summer camp.
Nine weeklong camp sessions are offered at the 4-H Grant Walker Education Center between May and July of each year. In 2019, more than 3,800 children in fourth through sixth grades went to 4-H Summer Camp. Campers participate every morning in one of seven tracks: food and fitness; science, engineering and technology; hunter safety certification; wetlands and wildlife; arts; renewable energy; and outdoor adventures. In the afternoon, campers have recreational time for various sports — archery, swimming, canoeing and kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding and line dancing, as well as team-building activities and performing arts. In the evenings, youth create skits, participate in talent shows and enjoy special guest speakers.
4-H campers learn to appreciate the outdoors, live together as a group, gain independence, get along with others, and appreciate people with different interests and backgrounds.
Located in Grant Parish near Pollock, Louisiana, the Grant Walker Educational Center was the first permanent 4-H camp in the South. It has been a part of the Louisiana 4-H life-skills building experience since the 1920s.
With over 8,000 people using the property year around, it is in constant need of updates and repairs. Engineers are assessing the scope of needs at this Louisiana historical property, and the Louisiana 4-H Foundation is embarking upon a multiyear fundraising campaign to support these necessary upgrades. We are hopeful that we can continue to improve the facilities and fundamentally enhance the life-changing experiences for our children in the years to come.
For more information about giving to the 4-H Building Fund, contact Louisiana 4-H Executive Director, Patrick Tuck at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.lsufoundation.org/give. Under Designations, type “4-H Building Fund” and follow the directions.