Catching first fish, performing Shakespeare headline Emerald Youth Camps

Catching first fish, performing Shakespeare headline Emerald Youth Camps

Gary Milton, left, helps Emerald Youth participant Christopher Green bait a line during fishing camp in summer 2012.

By John Crooks

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Many city children will be catching their first fish this summer, if Sycamore Tree UMC member Gary Milton has his way.

Milton, who is proprietor of Youth Spiritual Outdoor Adventures in Maryville, will give fishing lessons to urban youth during one of the most popular of Emerald Youth Foundation's annual events for inner city children: a week-long series of camps called Variety Camp Week June 17-21.

Variety of Eastern Tennessee is sponsoring the action packed week, which will also include camps on biking, drama, cooking, sports, gardening, business and science. More than 300 children will participate in the camps, said Shara Shoup, EY senior director of operations.

Milton said that at fishing camp on the banks of Fort Loudon Lake, the youth will learn fishing rules and regulations, how to identify fish, and bait hooks with live and artificial bait. Of course, they will spend plenty of time with their lines in the water. 

“In all my years of being part of Variety Camp Week, I can happily say that every child has caught at least one fish,” said Milton. “And I expect the same will be true this summer!”

Since 2007, Milton has teamed with Emerald Youth to provide fishing lessons each summer to elementary and middle school aged youth. Milton recruits Sycamore Tree members to assist with the camp. “It’s great to pass a love of the outdoors along to children, because it helps ensure they will enjoy it for the rest of their lives," he said.

Variety of Eastern Tennessee has raised nearly $5 million since 2001 to benefit children in need throughout the region. A $10,000 grant from Variety made the week of camps possible for the children at Emerald Youth.

“Variety Camp Week is especially beneficial to children because it allows them to sample so many new things,” said Kent Stanger, EY citywide events director.

For example, drama camp will allow children to form a small production company and present a play at the end of the week – a 30-minute version of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”. Gardening camp will teach youth gardening techniques and let them work in gardens at New Harvest Park.

Biking camp will help children learn safety rules and biking skills, but also learn a love for a new form of exercise, and at business camp, participants will learn how to run a city at Junior Achievement’s BizTown in Clinton.  

Emerald Youth will transport children each day to the camps, located at many sites in the area, including urban churches. Emerald Youth serves more than 1,350 children, teens and young adults each year through its network of 21 churches and faith-based organizations in urban Knoxville. More information is at