Since this is her 34th year of 4-H Club Camp, whether going with the children to the beach, the mountains or Rock Eagle, she knows exactly what to pack and what to expect.
She will be in a cabin with about 20 fourth- and fifth-grade girls and follow a group of them around every day.
Dependent upon the camp location, during the day she may be canoeing, being part of a “human box” formed around campers while they play and swim in the ocean, zip lining, helping campers set up a human slingshot or going down a huge waterslide with children who do not have the confidence to do it alone.
At Rock Eagle classes will include snakes, archery, bugs and other subjects designed to promote leadership, good character and healthy living.
Janie will be assisting in some of them. Given the chance to choose between helping with the snake classes or bug classes, she chose snakes. She has done that before.
For years, Janie worked for the Cherokee County Board of Education Transportation Department including driving a school bus. That was how she connected with 4-H Club. She drove a bus for them.
Many of us realize that driving a school bus filled with kids, even on the best of days, can be nerve wracking. But Janie has the ability to stay calm and have a calming influence on others.
Like Janie, I love the 4-H Club. I first went to camp when I was in the third grade. Both my sister and brother were members but I was too young.
After my mother volunteered to be a camp counselor, I got to go, too. The camp was located on Tybee Island. I fell in love with the ocean and with 4-H Club.
The 4-H Club has a special name for that. It is called Green Strings. If parents or grandparents are going to camp, they may take their younger children or grandchildren with them.
Janie and her husband, Hugh, have two sons. Kyle and his wife Karen’s 5-year-old son, Garrett, will be going with Janie this year. Kasey and his wife, Amanda, have two daughters, Emma and Sophie. Both of them have been camping with their grandmother.
Most parents are highly selective about the people they allow to be in charge of their children. Those associated with 4-H Club are now and were in the past highly respected, moral and dedicated to their work.
Professionals like U. G. Moore, George Jones and Fay McCurry were exemplary in their role as County Extension Agents in Cherokee County. Now County Extension Coordinator Trudy Christopher continues the high standards they set for themselves and the program.
Unlike many of those in her position, Trudy did not grow up with 4-H Club experience. She learned about it while she was a student at Auburn University. That led her to the best career she can imagine.
When she first arrived in Cherokee County, Trudy worked under the supervision of Fay McCurry. She was a great mentor and even went with Trudy the first time she took the kids to camp.
Trudy loves 4-H camp. The children are learning, having fun and making memories. She likes to “spoil them rotten” while they are in her charge.
While days are busy at camp, so are the nights. There are fun activities like talent shows, dancing, campfires, cookouts and games.
While both of her sons attended 4-H Club camp, Trudy’s husband, Canton veterinarian Mike Christopher, does not. Trudy laughs when she says, “It is not his cup of tea.” He stays home and takes care of the dog.
The volunteers are equally well respected. Hal Jones, co-owner of “Woodn’t It Be Lovely,” is one of the 4-H Club’s best leaders. Others are Justin and Linda Warbington Freeman. They first met when they were counselors at a 4-H Club camp.
While Janie enjoys most everything about camping with the kids, there is one thing that is not her favorite. Each night she must be sure all the girls in her charge are in the cabin safe and sound. She can easily do that.
But often after they are bedded down, the girls may be too excited to fall asleep before midnight. That means Janie can not sleep either. But since she loves children and stays calm, she handles that, too.
I admire Janie Ray. I will admit I am a little jealous of her. But Trudy Christopher has promised to help me with that.
Next summer, for the first time in over 50 years, I plan to go to 4-H Club camp.
Marguerite Cline is the former mayor of Waleska.