HUDSON — Isaiah Sizemore has made several discoveries since he's been at Camp Limberlost, and the biggest one has been about teamwork.
Among camper activities at Camp Limberlost at East Bay Camp at Lake Bloomington this week was a team-building activity. Isaiah, 12, learned something that even some adults don't know.
"When everyone works together, we have fun," said Isaiah, who just completed fifth grade at Cedar Ridge Elementary School and recently moved from Bloomington to McLean. "So we learned to work together."
Learning how to communicate without yelling, how to listen, how to be respectful and how to work together are among goals for Camp Limberlost campers, who are identified by their teachers in Bloomington District 87 and McLean County Unit 5 as students who otherwise would not have a summer camp experience, said camp dean Alex Maldonado. He worked at the camp as a counselor for seven years before becoming camp dean last year.
But the other goal of the week-long camp "is for kids to come out and enjoy themselves and enjoy being a kid," Maldonado said.
"We're having them be able to learn skills and conflict resolution but, ultimately, it's giving kids a chance to be kids," agreed Scott Seibring, a member of Bloomington Kiwanis Club that has sponsored Camp Limberlost since 1940 and supports it through fundraisers.
Limberlost — attended this year by 106 students going into grades three through six — is intended to give campers an opportunity to do things that they wouldn't normally do, said camp director Kim Stuby. The staff includes 28 counselors, four support staff and two volunteers.
Some campers are from low-income families who can't afford to send their children to camp for a week, said Maldonado, 26, a Normal native now working in the St. Louis area.
"Hopefully, we're putting more positive role models in their lives and they can take what they are learning into the schools and wherever else they are," he said.
"When you help kids in need, you help the community," Seibring said.
"I come here to have fun and enjoy time with other kids and be outside," said Isaiah, who is at camp for the third year. "You can just be outdoors and see animals that you wouldn't see in town. I saw a raccoon and turtles and a catfish that was, like, this big," he said, extending his arms as far as he could.
"I really like the animals," Isaiah said. "They are interesting and nothing is the same."
Isaiah also enjoys swimming and kayaking. "When I kayak, you get to choose your own way to go," he said. "You are in control."
Asked what he would tell potential campers, he said, "Don't be scared of the bugs. If you don't mess with them, they won't hurt you."
Oceane Mvita-Ilebo, 9, of Normal, who just finished fourth grade at Glenn Elementary School, is a second-year camper.
"It's fun and I get to learn to do stuff I don't normally get to do," such as staying overnight in a cabin, making new friends and playing on the beach, including tug-of-war in the water.
"I like spotting wildlife," she said. "I saw fish in the water and a groundhog. I think it's pretty cool ’cause I don't normally see wildlife in my backyard, only bunnies."
On the bus ride to camp, "I saw farm houses," Oceane said. "That was cool. And I saw huge fields of corn. Spreading out really far."
"My least favorite part (of camp) is the bugs," Oceane said. "But everything else is very awesome."