Saturday, August 14, 1999

At Adventure Outpost, risk rules

Kids test teamwork in outdoor fun

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Brittany Lumpkins climbed the 40 feet pretty quickly, straight up the wall at RockQuest Climbing Center in Sharonville, strapped in a harness, her head protected by a safety helmet.

        She was scared, she said. She didn't look down. She climbed up and rappelled back down.

        “This wasn't as hard as walking across those ropes,” said Brittany, 14, of Winton Terrace.

        She was among 21 girls who spent an afternoon with Adventure Outpost, a joint program of the Hamilton County Park District and the Cincinnati Recreation Commission.

        Whitney McGivens, 12, of Winton Terrace, found the climbing difficult.

        “I was shaking a little bit,” said Whitney. “It's hard. You have to use all your strength.”

        The number of participating youths has grown in the three years of Adventure Outpost — about 180 the first year, 230 the next and 300 this year.

        They come from any of Cincinnati's 32 community centers. Early this week, for instance, kids from community centers in the West End, Over-the-Rhine and Westwood participated. By the end of the this week, a group of 21 girls, ages 9 to 15, from the Winton Hills Community Center, arrived.

        The kids spend three days and two nights in camp in Winton Woods, cooking and cleaning up after themselves and enjoying sports, hiking, fishing and canoeing. They also participate in a ropes course and climbing at RockQuest.

        For most, the experiences are new. Meeting new friends is one of the primary aims; having them take responsibility for each others' welfare is another.

        “The majority of them don't know one another,” said Faith Smith, Adventure Outpost camp director. “We spend some time breaking the ice and getting them working together. Everybody takes a turn doing everything. It gives them chances to work on problem-solving skills.

        “At their age, they're running into a lot of risks in their life and we're trying to show them that risks can be good. Here's some outlets — climbing and ropes courses and canoeing. We're hoping with the climbing, for example, that each feels a sense of accomplishment and can take a risk beyond what they normally would. Later on, if they face something difficult, they'll think, "I climbed that wall.'”

        At night, away from the glow of city lights, it is pitch dark at camp. Whitney, along with Deneisha Jackson, 11, of Mount Airy, and Niesha Walker, 13, of Fairmount, almost in unison, with eyes widened, say, “It's dark!”

        They talk about the raccoons they've seen wander into camp — “Chillin' with us,” said Whitney — the canoeing they've done, the fishing they were about to embark upon, the campfire and ghost stories, a night hike, how quiet it can get.

        “I was a little shaky at first,” said Niesha. “But now I'm experiencing different things.”

        Joy Landry, communications specialist with the park district, said sometimes the complete urban personality reveals itself. Kids with no experience in the wooded outdoors asked if there were bears in the woods, or sharks in Winton Woods Lake.

        “They were amazed at the number of stars they can see,” said Ms. Landry. But they also learned about teamwork, she said. “You can't do it all by yourself,” she said. “You've got to have help.” Ms. Smith believes the program works.

        “It's a hard thing to measure,” said Ms. Smith. “It's not a quantitative thing. They come back and they're all excited, even when it's rough. They think, it was OK because I was with people who cared and who I could trust.”


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