Batesville Herald Tribune, Batesville, Indiana

Local News

August 2, 2013

Camp Riley builds confidence


Walking up cardiac hill was the toughest activity for Benning, who has spina bifida, a birth defect in which bones do not form properly around the spinal cord. The incline “is like a mountain that’s big and steep,” recalls Gray. “All you have is your feet to walk up it or a wheelchair. You can army crawl or roll or walk ... Some kids needs counselors to push them in wheelchairs.”

Another highlight for Gray was when the Fat Boys Jeepers “took all the kids, no matter what disability, to ride in their jeeps,” reports his stepmother. On that excursion, the Jac-Cen-Del Elementary School fifth-grader learned his favorite camp tune, “She got a Nose Job,” good because it was silly.

Great times continued during evening programs. Minute to Win It was awesome for Benning to see. “You had a minute to do a challenge. One was eating Oreos off your cheeks. It was fun to watch” one participant from each cabin try to be the best. Gray sang Bruno Mars’ “Grenade” during a talent show. When the applause came, he felt “proud and a little bit embarrassed ... I don’t like to sing out in public. I’ll lock my door and sing in my room!”

Neither could list a hated activity.

Between eight and 10 campers and three to five counselors slept in each cabin. A hundred or so campers were there with Gray July 14-26. There were about 60 kids at Benning’s June 16-21 session from not only Indiana, but also Illinois, Michigan and Ohio.

Wild life fascinated the campers. “The coolest thing that I saw” was a 15-inch-long light brown woodchuck hanging out by his cabin, recalls Benning, a South Ripley Elementary School fourth-grader. More curious than afraid, the youth had a stare-off with the creature. Gray’s best moment was viewing a bald eagle. “It’s like an endangered animal. Nobody’s allowed to hunt on that land” so eagles are safe there. He also saw a gray-tailed squirrel, deer, owl, hawk and skunk. That last encounter “didn’t turn out so good. I tried to walk up and catch it, but a counselor came and grabbed me.”

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