For the last week, 1,200 cadets and staff have formed their own village southwest of Custer.
Camp Elk Run 2017 Cadet International Camporee is a week’s retreat that happens every three years. The location rotates and the plan for it to take place in Custer has been in the making for over four years. This is the camp’s second time in the Black Hills, the first being in 1981 at Custer State Park with about 900 in attendance.
The Camporee is to create and promote a program of activities and skills that appeals to boys in their youth and to help them grow to be more Christ-like in all aspects of life. The camps are put on by the Calvinist Cadet Corps and have people from all over the globe involved, from the U.S. to Canada and even a counselor from Australia.
“The cadets are broken down into eight colors and there are 13 campsites within each,” said host committee chairman Steve Van Heerde. “Generally, there are two counselors to eight boys. Nobody knows each other; it is all randomly assigned. They are together all week and they become a family.”
The boys came July 12 and will leave July 19, but the staff was there as early as July 7 and will have the camp packed up Friday, July 21.
When the cadets arrive, they are given two 30×40-foot pieces of plastic, wooden poles and twine to build their home for the week.
“As soon as they arrive the first thing we have them do is set up their camp,” said Patrick Degroot, special programs and activities coordinator.
Every day is packed with activities such as archery, marksmanship, a geocaching course, adventure games, a grass-etching souvenir craft, a trip to Mount Rushmore, a hike up Black Elk Peak and a swim in Sylvan Lake.
The boys also take part in a community service project. This year it is helping clear pine trees to promote aspen growth for elk game management for the Dept. of Game, Fish and Parks.
The staff also provides a special program most nights throughout the week. On Saturday, cadets enjoyed a concert put on by the band Happy The Dog and Monday evening they were inspired by a speaker, Pastor John Lee.
Van Heerde attended the camporee in 1996 at the age of 12 in the Canadian Rockies at Alberta, Canada. He said the Camporee is a great way to get away from everything, focus on God and become more Christ-like in everyday life.
This year’s theme, “God seeking us,” comes from Ezekiel 34:11, “Behold, I myself will search for my sheep and seek them out.”
Visit www.calvinistcadets.org to learn more.