Laura Dean Bennett
This article continues from last week’s edition.
It’s a big moment when the Spirit of the Camp is named and this highest honor, represented by the Spirit Stick, is presented to the winner.
Four-H Spirit of the Camp winners, no matter how long ago they received the award, don’t seem to ever forget it.
They cherish their Spirit Sticks and their memories of 4-H camp.
Gabe Walkup 2014
Gabe Walkup received his BS in chemistry, with a minor in dance, from West Virginia University. These days he works as an oil additive chemist and lives in Philadelphia.
Four-H had a STEM Ambassador Program which was in line with Gabe’s interest and studies in the STEM field. He also credits 4-H for his interest in dance.
“While dance doesn’t help me advance my chemistry career, it certainly helps me to enjoy life,” he said.
Gabe was the “Spirit of the Camp” in 2014.
“The spirit stick still has a lot of meaning for me,” Gabe said. “I still have it and my Cherokee Chief headband. They’ve always travelled with me.”
Right now, they hang together on the wall in his home.
“Your tribe really starts to feel like a family,” he said.
“Besides being at camp together every summer, you see each other at club meetings and other 4-H activities, like the County Roundup and, of course, you see them at school.
“We’d always hype each other up for 4-H camp and make plans for what we wanted to do that summer at camp.
“And my friendships from 4-H are still with me, too.
“One friend from 4-H, whose name is also on my spirit stick, is marrying my college roommate and we’re all looking forward to seeing each other again at the wedding.”
Hallie Herold 2007
Hallie Herold graduated from West Virginia University, moved back to Pocahontas County in 2016, and is now the branch librarian at the Green Bank Library.
“My camp memories are some of my most cherished,” she said. “I never missed a year of camp. I guess I was eighteen when I won the Spirit Stick.
“It was the year after I was chief of the Delaware Tribe, and I was shocked and honored. I cried real tears that night.
“I still have my Spirit Stick, it’s a beast,” she laughed. “It’s too tall to even stand up in my house.
“I don’t think I could ever part with it.
“I actually started going to 4-H camp a couple of years before I was an official camper.
“My dad, Tom Herold, was a Big Foot. He taught shooting classes there so even though I was too young to really go to camp, I got to stay with him.
“Kelly Starr and Wes Talbott were in the same situation, so we started our own unofficial tribe called the ‘Tadpoles.’ Mostly we just hung out by the creek and hit each other with sticks.
“Finally, when I was nine, I was able to join in as a real camper.
“I chose the Delaware tribe based on the teens in camp that I most admired.
“I was a shy kid, a quiet observer who mostly sat back and watched, in awe, as the older campers put on skits and wrote funny songs, usually pulled from pop culture.
“There were lots of Spice Girls renditions and Garth Brooks rewrites.
“I vividly remember seeing my older brother, Sam Herold – who was also the Spirit of the Camp several years before me – perform in a hilarious skit. It was sort of a music video for “My Boyfriend’s Back” by The Angels.
“One of my favorite things to participate in was the storytelling. One member of each tribe was chosen to create a story, by taking turns and adding a few sentences at a time, on the spot.
“I remember, sometime in my teens, being surprised that I (shy girl) was chosen to lead storytelling, and even more surprised that I wasn’t nervous.
“Four-H makes learning and maturing so much fun that you don’t even notice that’s what’s going on.
“Looking back, I see that was the whole point – through all of the songs, games and shenanigans – it was giving me confidence.
“A lot of work goes into making 4-H Camp the incredible experience that it is, and a lot of it is done by the teen leaders. They’re performers, caregivers and creators.
“They were the coolest people I’d ever been around. I never imagined that I could, someday, take on that role. But, somehow, along the way, I became a version of those “cool” teenagers I’d looked up to so many years before.
“Was I ever actually cool?
“Photographic evidence would indicate that I wasn’t.
“But I sure felt cool.
“It wasn’t until they named me “Spirit of Camp” that I realized how much growing up in 4-H had cultivated those same leadership skills in me.
“I know I was very lucky to be a part of such a special program.”
Clay Baxter 2006
Clay Baxter has worked as a chef for several years. He’s currently a chef at the Omni Homestead Hotel in Hot Springs, Virginia.
“Not a day goes by that I don’t have some fond memory of my 4-H camp family,” he said.
“I just recently spent time at my mother’s and held my spirit stick. I was explaining the 4-H experience to my girlfriend and telling her how much it means to me and to everyone in 4-H.
“Being the Spirit of the Camp is an ongoing achievement.
“Winning that stick showed me that my strength is to nurture and care for others and for everything in this world. Nothing is more important to me than spirit.
“I was born to care for others. I thank my parents and my friends who helped me see that.
“I work in the culinary field, and I smile when I know I’ve made others smile.
“In my kitchen, I’m working with people from all over the world. They speak many languages – but I find that laughter and love is universal.
“And I still use the communication skills that I learned in 4-H.”
Amy Henry-Morgan 2002
Amy Henry-Morgan, her husband and two children recently moved back to Pocahontas County after living abroad for many years.
Amy has a mass communications degree and worked in radio, TV and film before she and her astronomer husband, Larry Morgan, moved from Halifax, Nova Scotia, to Liverpool, then Exeter, England.
In England, Amy worked in education outreach with high school age students.
Larry recently took a position at the Green Bank Observatory, bringing the family “home,” to the delight of Amy’s family here.
“I was 19 years old and the chief of the tribe the year I won the spirit stick,” Amy remembered.
“I’d been in 4-H since I was nine. I think you had to be nine to go to camp back then. I went to camp the first year I could. I couldn’t wait to go. I’d been watching my two older sisters, Ginger and Beth, and I wanted to be in 4-H, too.
“My mom (Kathy Henry) was a camp counselor and she took me to camp when she went along with Ginger and Beth, so I got to go to camp before I was really old enough to officially be there. I just went along and watched. As it turned out, neither of my sisters won a spirit stick, but I did!
“I still have it in my childhood bedroom.
“I always loved being in 4-H and going to camp. It’s so nice that our children will get to grow up here. Luna is three and Rufus is five and going into kindergarten.
“I can’t wait for my kids to be old enough to join 4-H. It’s such a good program.
“Four-H really prepared me for life. All those years of giving presentations in front of a group and doing demonstrations and having projects judged in public taught me how to not be afraid to speak in front of a crowd. That’s an important skill; it makes you more employable.
“Four-H taught me about making friends. I remember going to State Camp where there were hundreds of kids from all over the state, and we just jumped in and made friends with everyone.
“As an adult, I was going around the world and meeting strangers all the time.
“Luckily, I found it easy to make friends.
“I got that from 4-H.”
Betty Burke – a 4-H mother
Betty Burke’s three children – Cindi, Jamie and Beth – all adults now, were in 4-H and went to 4-H camp for many years.
“4-H was a great thing for my kids,” Burke said. “It was one of the biggest things that our family did. The kids loved it.
“Two of them – Cindi and Jamie – won the Spirit of the Camp award, and they still have their spirit sticks.
“Cindi won the spirit of the Camp award in 1991. She is a doctor now, with a medical practice in Williamsburg, Virginia.
“Jamie won his spirit stick in 1992.
“He’s now a physical therapist with Seneca Trail Physical Therapy in Lewisburg, occasionally coming to relieve Ben [Rittenhouse] at the physical therapy practice in Marlinton.
“My oldest, Beth, is an accountant working for the Williamsburg, Virginia, Chamber of Commerce.
“Beth would have probably won a spirit stick, too, but she didn’t go to her last year at 4-H camp.”
Seth J. Mitchell 2011
Seth Mitchell is a 2013 WVU graduate with a BS in Recreation, Parks, Tourism and Natural Resource Management.
After traveling for work as a vacation guide in Wyoming, Arizona and Utah, Mitchell returned to West Virginia and is currently working on a BS in Nursing at WVU.
“I was 20 years old when I won,” Seth said. “I’d been involved with the 4-H program for thirteen years, and I was the Seneca chief when I won ‘spirit.’
“My spirit stick sits in my childhood room at home in Marlinton.
“Spirit Sticks are made by the older campers. They’re traditionally fairly large – usually around six feet tall and about three inches in diameter.
“They have a visual presence and physical heft.
“The stick is carved with the names of the tribes, their chief and the sagamore’s initials, and it’s painted in the tribal colors.
“Many of my best friends to this day are people I met through 4H.
“I have great memories of singing, creating skits and meeting new people at camp.
“Four-H taught me to think critically, be honest, lend a hand when there was a need and take care of myself and others.
“The Spirit of the Camp award recognizes not only the enthusiasm and effort put into a week of camping, but the leadership, character and passion the recipient displays year-round in the 4-H program, culminating in their week at camp.
“I was honored to be chosen and at that point in my life, it was, in my view, my greatest achievement.
“My Spirit Stick will always be a reminder of the camaraderie of camp, the special place that is Camp Thornwood, and the people who were there with me.”