NoVA 4-H Center debuts its family camp this Labor Day

With Director Jeremy Stanford at the helm, this inaugural event at Harmony Hollow will give families the opportunity to relax, play and reconnect.

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Each year, the annual Labor Day holiday always arrives at a hectic time. By the end of August, most kids will have already started school, leading parents to return to daily routines of packing lunches, assisting with homework and stressing over the week’s extracurricular activities. 

So, right in the nick of time, a day off seems to be exactly what the doctor ordered. And this year, nonprofit Northern Virginia 4-H Educational and Conference Center, which facilitates experiential learning programs regularly, is hosting an event from Aug. 30 through Sept. 2 that will help prepare you and your family for the transitions ahead. 

The idea came into fruition with the leadership of Director Jeremy Stanford, who joined the 4-H Center this past January following 10 years of experience in camp and retreat center leadership. While this experience is new to Northern Virginia, Stanford has had success with similar family centered programs in his previous positions. 

“This is a time for families to disconnect, reconnect with one another and spend time away,” says Stanford. “The way it is designed makes it really adaptable for families to get what they want out of it, whether that be a passive weekend with immediate family or a weekend of meeting other families with similar interests.”

As this is the organization’s trial run of family camp, there will be no adventure activities available, such as the challenge course, the swimming pool and canoeing. Recreational amenities that don’t require full-staff supervision, though, will be open for all, including the basketball and soccer courts, Lake Culpeper for fishing and hiking trails among the Blue Ridge Mountains. Plus, there will be large group programming throughout the evenings that have yet to be finalized, but ideas are family bingo, square dancing and, of course, campfires. 

Stanford is also trying something new to make this experience unique to the 4-H Center, where he is inviting families to share their own hobby or passion as an activity over the course of the weekend. For example, if a passionate yogi wants to lead a class for all lodgers, she is welcome to submit a plan to Stanford and he will add it to the master schedule. 

For Stanford, family camp is meant to mean more than just a weekend away, but rather a tradition that can connect families for decades. The event will become an annual one, reflecting Stanford’s hope that people who experience it for the first time will continue to return for years to come. 

“The last camp I was at has been running a program like this one for 40 years and there are a few families that had been there every single year since its inception,” says Stanford. “This year might be meeting new friends, but a generation from now it might be introducing grandchildren to one another. It can be really deep and meaningful when you think about it.”

// Northern Virginia 4-H Educational and Conference Center: 600 4h Center Drive, Front Royal; prices vary

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