JOHNS CREEK, Ga. — Two Johns Creek middle school pals decided when they were still in elementary school three years ago that rather than go to summer camp, they would start one.
And today the two 13-year-olds’ Camp Awesome is a hit with local neighborhood children.
It was the idea of Garrett McLaughlin and Hunter Rutledge. They met at Barnwell Elementary School and have been friends ever since, even though Hunter now goes to Haynes Bridge Middle and Garrett goes to Autrey Mill Middle.
“We wanted to earn some money for summer and thought this would be fun,” said Garrett.
Hunter echoed the thought.
For three years, they have conducted a summer camp for youngsters from 4 to 8 years old, teaching them games, sports and skills such as team-building.
Garrett’s mom, Kelly McLaughlin, said the boys enjoy working with kids, so they started the camp as fifth graders.
“They made up flyers and passed them around the neighborhood. They would teach the kids sports, taking up a different sport each day,” McLaughlin said. “The kids loved it – they enjoyed being around older boys – and the boys made a little summer money doing it.”
She said the experience also taught them about business — making a plan, advertising, managing costs. For instance, they had to budget T-shirts and tie-dye materials as well as for popsicles and other snacks.
“It was a beautiful experience for them,” she said.
They try to limit their camp to around a dozen campers. But they have hired a couple of friends to be extra counselors at Camp Awesome.
The boys switch between the two subdivisions they live in, and get some extra adult supervision at the pool.
Sessions last three days and are three hours each day. They are planning another session this month.
Garrett and Hunter would organize games and competitions based on the game show “Minute to Win It.”
“We also had to make up flyers and put them up around the neighborhood. But it’s fun just playing or teaching the kids sports and other stuff they didn’t know,” Garrett said. “You know, like having a good attitude and being respectful.”
Hunter said the two friends were looking for a way to earn money for the summer and do something fun together.
“This was like the perfect solution to do that,” Hunter said.
He said the camp experience has been really good for everyone.
“When I see the kids outside of Camp Awesome, we’ve created some relationships that are just unbelievable. They all love it,” Hunter said.
He said he gets a lot out of working with the younger children.
“I really like how the camp is growing and seeing the smiles on their faces. It’s great to watch them laughing and teaching them lessons they’ll remember probably their whole life,” he said.
Asked to explain, Hunter said they spend a lot of time team-building and then organizing team contests such as scavenger hunts.
“They have to get organized and find the stuff. It’s fun to see them develop those skills,” he said.
Hunter said they are saving the money they earn until they get older and that they will donate $30 to charity.
McLaughlin said the boys are getting good experience while they have fun doing it.
“It’s been like a lemonade stand on steroids,” she said.