What is summer without going away to camp?

Backed by local donations, and a stepped-up recruitment effort by the county extension office, a record number of local youth, 32 in all, got to have that memorable experience the last week in June, as they joined with kids from Bay. Gulf and Wakulla counties at 4-H Camp.

The number represents a steep improvement over last year’s 21, and the year before that just eight, Franklin County kids who went away to Camp Timpoochee, in Niceville along the shore of the Choctawhatchee Bay.

Prior to that, the camp would attract only a handful of kids each year.

In addition to swimming, kayaking, archery, fishing, arts and crafts, and all the many adventures a kid experiences at summer camp, this year was a particularly exciting year, because Hughes Network Systems, LLC, a leader in satellite broadband for home and office, contributed $2,400 from its HughesNet operation to implement STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) at the camp, enabling the kids to build their own robots and watch them perform in the water.

Michelle Huber, office manager at the county extension office, said the big source of funding that enabled the Franklin County kids to attend came from 25 local sponsors, who contributed $11,438 to make camping a reality for the kids.

She and Extension Agent Erik Lovestrand, who visited the camp for two days during the week, offered thanks and praise to the contributors, who included Caroline Weiler, Joyce Estes - Sea Oats Gallery, Hole in the Wall Seafood, Rex Pennycuff - Fisherman's Choice, Gordon Shuler, Apalachicola Bay Animal Clinic, Edda Allen - The Sportsman's Lodge, Steven Rash - Water Street Seafood, Rod and Connie Gasche, Pat and Michael O'Connell, Wanda Teat Counseling Inc., Susan Bachrach, Shirley Thompson - Gunn Heating and Air Conditioning, Billy Shultz, Florida Seafood Festival, Gayle Dehaan, Mason and Marilyn Bean, Sanders and Duncan, Pam and Terry Corcoran, Centennial Bank, Trinity Episcopal Church, Rick Watson - Tax Collector, Sharon Frazier, Willis ACE Hardware, and Career Source Gulf Coast Workforce.

The 32 Franklin County campers, two more than the county’s original allotment of just 30 slots, who got a chance to attend camp included Meredith Alford, Weston Bockelman, Carson Davis, Nyashia Davis, Ashton Eskew, Breahna Fleming, Cameron Golden, Jayden Golden, Addyson Kent, Kalahn Kent, Emily Mioton, MJ Mioton, Jordon Olson, Isabella Price, Evie Morgan Price, Adrian Pruett, Allison Register, Gabi Allison, London Scarabin, Suezelle Scarabin, Sophia Strickland, Promise Suddeth, Dex Teat, John Michael Thompson, Camille Williams, Kingston Williams, Becca Willis, Lilly Willis, Porter Smith, Daylen Gilbert, Kassidy Raffield-Fisher and Jacob Shirley.

Of these campers, eight served as camp counselors - Kalahn Kent, Emily Mioton, Adrian Pruett, Allison Register, Camille Williams, Kassidy Raffield-Fisher, Jacob Shirley and Becca Willis. Huber said Krista Kelley went to 4H Camp with Santa Rosa County as a counselor, Williams attended with Santa Rosa and Liberty counties and will represent the county at 4H University in Gainesville, as will Willis, who attended Marine Camp as a counselor.

Hardly a rustic, primitive experience, Camp Timpoochee features all buildings and cabins that are climate controlled, five bunks per cabin with adjoining baths. conference rooms, an auditorium with stage and seating for 150, dining hall with fully staffed kitchen, outdoor pavilion with large barbecue grill, private beachfront facilities with canoes, fishing, and marine collecting equipment, 20-passenger pontoon boat for snorkeling and leisure trips, marine wet lab with fresh and salt water tanks, large playing fields and sports equipment and a campfire circle seating 120.