Campers ring the bell, which signifies the end of a class period at Potosi Pines, June 20, 2012. ( Christopher DeVargas )
By Conor Shine, Las Vegas Sun and U.S. News Agency / Asian
On a mild summer’s morning in the foothills of the Spring Mountains, the air sits silent and still over the A-frame cabins that make up Potosi Pines Camp. The quiet is broken only intermittently by the sound of shots from a nearby Boy Scouts gun range.
Camp volunteer Julie Doyle checks her watch, slowly walks over to a large silver bell attached to the camp’s mess hall and, with a swift motion, sets it ringing, sending a loud clang reverberating through the campground.
From the various buildings that dot the site emerge dozens of elementary-age children, each shuffling along to the morning’s next planned activity.
Even though the camp is only 30 minutes southwest of Las Vegas, it is a world away from the hustle and bustle of the city and offers a first chance for many campers to experience the region’s scenic outdoors.
“It feels really different,” said 8-year-old Evan Byrowski. “It feels like it’s going to be a beautiful day every day.”
In a digital age when children spend much of their time in front of televisions or on the Internet, the summer camp experience remains the same as ever, offering kids an opportunity to get outdoors, meet new friends and tell a few spooky ghost stories around a campfire.
“This is a place they can come play, get dirty and be kids,” said Tracey Brown, the camp’s director. “It’s about having time away, time to be with each other and be in a community. We don’t do that as much anymore.”
Each week sees a new group of campers — ranging in age from elementary school to high school — settle down in the camp, with up to 60 children attending at a time.
This week’s camp was playing host to elementary school students and putting them through a summer camp curriculum that included archery, hiking, and arts and crafts, all themed around the upcoming 2012 Olympics in London.
“It’s the first time I’ve gotten to shoot a bow,” said 8-year-old camper Alyssa Messenger. “I felt really strong pulling the string back and then hitting the target.”
Of the 60 kids attending Potosi Pines’ elementary-age camp, about 15 were there with the help of the Las Vegas Sun Summer Camp Fund, which since 1970 has been helping children attend summer camps who couldn’t otherwise afford it.
Last year, the fund helped send 585 kids to one of eight camps in the area; this year, officials hope to send more than 700.
“It’s important that all kids have a chance to experience something like this,” said Doyle, who’s volunteered with the camp for 30 years. “We want kids to know they’re loved and cared for.”