EAST BETHANY — The Camp Hard Hat kids, instructors and counselors put in a week at Area B of Genesee County Park & Forest and the result was a new pavilion.
The participants gathered Friday afternoon near the pavilion, which had a plaque on it, to dedicate the new structure.
“We had a group put the support beams in and then we built the rest of it,” one of the campers, Anna McLaughlin of Bergen, said. McLaughlin said the people who brought the lumber and dropped it off put in the support beams.
“It was pretty tiring, but it was very fun,” she said. “I was on the roof, putting the water sheets on to make sure the water doesn’t go through the pavilion and that was pretty fun.”
McLaughlin said she also had to drill holes in the beams to which the plaque was attached.
“I had to drill the holes for those that go all the way around the pavilion,” said the Byron-Bergen student, who will be a sophomore in September. “Then, I had to carry the tresses over and hand the tresses over to the people. I had to hammer in the two-by-fours to go between the beams that I drilled the holes in. I nailed the plywood to the roof and then I nailed in the water-protective sheets.”
As a 10th grader in 2022-23, McLaughlin will be too old to return to Camp Hard Hat next summer as a student camper. But she could return as a counselor, as a couple of teenagers did this year.
“Karyn (Winters, Business/Education Alliance director) asked me if I wanted to come back as a counselor next year and I told her, ‘Yes,'” McLaughlin said.
As the two who were counselors this past week, Jackson Ciravolo and Lukas Volkmar said their main responsibilities were to give the kids tasks, tell them what to do and guide them to do the right thing, and be safe.
“Hopefully in the future, they can become counselors as well,” Ciravolo said. “This year, it went very well. A lot of the kids seemed to know what they were doing and they were naturals at it. Most of them took the advice because they knew we had experience in it. I think a lot of them wanted to learn and become better people and, hopefully, fill our shoes one day.”
His follow counselor, Volkmar, said, “It was just a good experience for the younger kids to get an idea for hands-on work in the trades.”
The two of them said with so many kids participating, it was sometimes tough to find something for everyone to do.
“It was a blessing and a curse,” Ciravolo said.
Volkmar said, “You had a couple of people standing around, but everybody had something to do.”
The camp went from Monday through Friday.
“The project was finished today,” Ciravolo said. One of the last things the campers did was attach a plaque to the pavilion.
Camp Hard Hat is in its eighth year of operation and is a partnership between Park & Forest, the BEA and Genesee Valley BOCES Building Trades Program. Led by GV BOCES Building Trades instructors Rich Monroe and Kelly Mileham, Camp Hard Hat promotes skilled-trade careers and teaches local youth the value of learning to build a community project with their hands.
Monroe, unable to attend the dedication Friday, had prepared a speech which was summarized by GV BOCES instructor Jared Radesi. In it, Monroe thanked several people for their help in making this year’s Hard Hat program a success.
“I would like to take a minute to thank all of the parents who have trusted us with their children. You have raised hard-working, dedicated children who embrace learning and have enthusiasm to try new things. It is parents like you that challenge your children and put them in what may start out as uncomfortable situations, but knowing full well that when they come out the other side of an educational experience they are going to be better for it,” Monroe wrote.
“Most of all I would like to thank this year’s campers. Let’s start by recognizing Lukas (Volkmar) and Jackson (Ciravolo), our camp counselors. They have brought several years of experience with them to help us keep the new cherubs safe. They stepped right in as old veterans of Camp Hard Hat and picked up the slack wherever the slack needed picking up,” he said.
Monroe recognized the returning campers.
“You picked up right where you left off. You became team leaders, kept the new cherubs focused, and remembered all the skills you learned last year to make this job efficient and safe for yourselves and the new cherubs. And last but certainly not least, let us recognize the newest members of Camp Hard Hat. Your first year here brought us the highest number of campers that’s ever experienced Camp Hard Hat in one summer. I watched you all the very first day a little bit confused in this rough environment until the third day when all pistons were firing in this engine,” he said. “In closing, always remember that you are now bonded to this park. Your names will be memorialized on a plaque that will stand proud for many years to come. You are now amongst many other campers that have passed this way and left an enduring mark on this park.”