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June 3, 2012

Summer flavor

Teen Round-Up offers free camp for kids in low-income families

DUNCAN — Imagine having a childhood where you never had the opportunity to have a summer camp experience, never got to sit around a campfire, never go on a nature walk led by the cool counselor and never make life-long memories that summer camps are known for.

Many children are part of a low-income family whose parent(s) work hard just to pay the bills and can’t afford to send their children to camp. At one time, Roxanne Kerley, director of Teen Round-Up along with her husband Kim, was a single mom in that situation.

“I was a single mom in California with two small girls and I could never send them to camp,” she said.

After Kerley met and married her husband, they moved to the Duncan area, where Kim’s parents — the late Bud and Joy Kerley — had founded Teen Round-Up in 1965. Kerley brought the idea of a free summer camp for children ages 7-12 of low-income families to her father-in-law.

He immediately consented and they began raising money to put together the camp. The first camp was held in 1998 with 100 campers. This is the 15th annual summer camp season for them and they now offer several dates throughout the summer, with 1,000 total slots.

The kids bunk in real train boxcars that have been renovated into dorms with electricity and plumbing. Seven home-cooked meals are provided, which are sponsored by Tom Robertson’s Southwest Foods of Duncan. The meals are prepared by volunteer cooks Deral and Candace Adams.

As the years have passed, they have added activities for their campers to participate in. They offer outdoor sports, feeding fish, boat rides, a 70-foot zipline over their pond, a critter hunt, talent show, late-night hayride and singalong, and a professional speaker for children.

New this year is a 70-foot holed metal bridge over the pond, which is an extension of their nature walk. Teen Round-Up is partners with National Fish and Wildlife, which provides support for the nature walk around the 3-acre pond. There is also another special addition to the pond.

“We have to keep everyone excited so we add new things and this year we got a beaver in our pond,” said Kerley. “His name is Beaver Ben and I wrote a song about him that all the kids will learn.”

Camp T-shirts will also feature Teen Round-Up’s new mascot and during the Giant Birthday Party the second evening of each camp, the cupcakes will be beaver-decorated.

This party celebrates all the kids’ birthdays at one time at 8 p.m. the second evening of camp. Each child is given a Bible printed with his or her name, provided by attorney Tony Link, a large gift bag and a cupcake. Parents are invited to celebrate with the children.

Along with the Kerleys and the Adams, there are 150-200 volunteers who serve as counselors. They all come recommended by their pastors or community leaders.

Sign ups for the camps may be found on the Teen Round-Up site at www. teenroundup.com. The camp dates for 2012 are June 4-6, June 11-13, June 18-20, June 25-27, July 9-11, July 16-18, July 23-25 and July 30-Aug. 1. The camps begin at 10 a.m. each Monday and end at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday.

The first and second weeks of camp are already filled and the third week is filling up fast, said Kerley. The final week of camp is for ages 13-15 and will have several inner-city youth attending.

“We’re ready to have camp,” said Kerley. “We’re doing pretty well.”

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