While other kids slept in on Saturday morning, 9-year-old Reece Kennedy and his little brother Riley woke up early and headed to basic training — the 4-H version.
There are no real guns and no real danger at 4-H Boot Camp, a free Grant County day-camp started by Army veteran Lamar Fowler in 2011, but kids like Reece and Riley do practice marching, shooting BBs and running obstacle courses in teams.
“It teaches you all these life lessons like selfless service, duty, honor,” Reece said.
And that’s exactly the point, according to Fowler. He said he created 4-H Boot Camp with hopes of helping children have fun outside while learning the values his own Army training instilled in him: “Loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage.
“They learn about teamwork, learn about respect, use those magic words with their teachers, with their parents, like, ‘Yes, ma’am; no, sir,’” he added.
Dry Ridge Elementary School family resource coordinator Marianne Smith has seen the results in action. Every participant in 4-H Boot Camp gets a T-shirt and a pair of dog tags at the end of the day; some arrive at school on Monday wearing them.
“They ask all the time, ‘When is the next boot camp? Can we do it longer? Can we do it next Saturday?’” she said. “I love it when I get those texts or emails from teachers or principals that say, ‘Hey, you wouldn’t believe what so-and-so did and how they’re changing, making positive strides.’”