GREENVILLE — Optimist Camp camper Angie Edmonson stood steadily on the shore of Baldwin Lake Thursday morning, her gaze focused intently on her bobber floating on the surface of the water, waiting for a fish to bite.
The camper continued to wait patiently, with birds chirping and the sound of small waves hitting the shore the only sounds to accompany her.
Then, bloop! Her bobber went under.
Edmonson erupted with excitement and camp volunteer Gerry Clayton rushed to her side to help her reel in the fish, the two of them screaming in excitement together.
After a few exciting seconds, the fish managed to escape and Edmonson turned to Clayton with a laugh.
“He got away!” she exclaimed. “We have to try again.”
That mix of relaxation in nature followed with a rush of excitement are what the Optimist Camp offers each year to its special needs campers.
“You see how excited she got when she got a bite. That’s worth it all right there,” Clayton said.
Campers have been attending the camp this summer throughout five one-week sessions.
Camp Director JoLynn Spencer said ample weather conditions have provided campers with yet another great summer at the Greenville campground.
“It’s been going really well. This week has been our adult week, so we have campers from 18 years old up to 68 years old,” Spencer said. “Every morning we go canoeing, fishing, have archery and many other activities. We’ve been keeping them busy.”
Spencer said the importance of the camp can’t be measured, as many of the campers don’t have another opportunity to experience a week away from home.
“Most of these campers look forward to this, this is their summer vacation,” she said. “It’s an experience that they wouldn’t get otherwise. A lot of them come here year after year, they make new friends and get to reconnect with old ones.”
Various organizations and many volunteers, such as Clayton, who volunteers though the EightCap Inc. Grandparents program, have helped to make this year’s five sessions a success.
Other activities, such as a fundraiser through Chris Cakes Catering, sponsored by Ed Koehn Ford Lincoln, helped raise more than $1,000 for the camp.
“We have people stopping in all the time to help volunteer,” Spencer said. “We couldn’t do it without them.”
Campers pay a fee of $20 if they can afford it. The operational cost of the camp for the year is approximately $65,000, which covers training, personnel, counselors, food and supplies.
The camp is funded by community donations and assistance from the Optimist Club. About 300 campers attend the camp each summer.