New Funding Leads To Excursion Filled Camping

Elijah Woods, 9, center, of Trabue Crossing, goes mining at Olentangy Indian Caverns

Elijah Woods, 9, center, of Trabue Crossing, goes mining at Olentangy Indian Caverns

‘Scioto Mile,’ Caverns, Fishing, Walking Trails Among Activities   

Fifty-eight steps underground on a sweltering July afternoon, the temperature at Olentangy Indian Caverns was a refrigerator-cool 40 degrees. Condensation glazed walls. Water randomly dripped from jagged ceilings.

And then there was the limited lighting throughout narrow passages.

“Miss Nikiah,” nine-year-old Elijah Woods called out to his summer camp counselor. “I’m scared.”

For decades the Caverns have been an attraction for Central Ohio summer campers. But for the 30 kids visiting from Homeport, it was an extraordinary learning opportunity in a summer of firsts.

Homeport, thanks to a $100,000 grant from the Ohio Capital Impact Corporation, has provided almost daily excursions to distant and fun places through a partnership with Columbus Area Integrated Health Services (“Columbus Area”).

“These camps are so important to the families living in our affordable rental communities,” said Alex Romstedt, Homeport’s Director of Community Life Partners.

“They provide an opportunity for our kids to experience something new, like going to a nature park, or seeing downtown,” Romstedt said.

“This type of experiential learning plays a key role in child development,” he said. “And for many of them, this may be the first time they’ve ventured outside of their community, let alone the City. We feel strongly that exposure is the gateway to possibility.”

Children from Bending Brook enjoy an outing at Scioto Mile (Photo Courtesy OCCH)

Children from Bending Brook enjoy an outing at Scioto Mile (Photo Courtesy OCCH)

This summer Homeport has 10 summer camps serving 263 children. Half are based at community centers of Homeport residential communities.

Columbus Area runs five of the excursion camps, up from one in 2015.  Activities range from hiking, fishing or swimming at area parks, to ice-skating, a trip to Scioto Mile or visiting COSI.

Thirty children from Homeport’s Bending Brook, Emerald Glen and Trabue Crossing communities visited Olentangy Indian Caverns.

“It’s cool for the kids to be in an underground cave, to learn about the artifacts and history of the Native Indians, especially that they once lived here in their city,” said Precious Martin, a program coordinator for Columbus Area.

“They also are learning about science -- stalagmites and stalactites and things that grow in caves. It’s a fun way to learn about history, science, hands on, giving them something to see,” Martin said.

Homeport kids enjoy a game of Cornhole while visiting Olentangy Indian Caverns

Homeport kids enjoy a game of Cornhole while visiting Olentangy Indian Caverns

For nine-year-old Elijah Woods of Trabue Crossing, the above ground activities were more rewarding then the cavern, especially a mining experience where the children panned various colored pebbles.

“I found some gold,” Elijah shouted with excitement. “I’m going to show my Mom.”