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April 8, 2013

‘Putting ‘camp’ back in summer camp’

Family starts new outdoor experience just minutes from Berea

BEREA — The new Toodle Langa summer camp, for campers going into the sixth grade through 17 years of age, will open at a location just minutes from Berea.

The emphasis of the camp is “Art through Re-Purposing and Re-Using.” Campers can make T-shirts, musical instruments, art and crafts reusing old items.

Campers will sleep in tents, prepare all meals by campfire and participate in a variety of outdoor activities for a more “primitive camping experience,” said Christina King, who created the camp with her husband Darin.

Last year, the Kings began looking for a summer camp experience for their four children.

Reminiscing about their own childhood adventures of sleeping under the stars, hikes in the woods and stories around the campfire, the Kings sought the same for their children, who are ages 8, 10, 13 and 15.

They found many camps were outside of their price range or were only available during the day. Some camps provided restaurant-style dining, had wi-fi hookup in the cabins or allotted video game time — “they were too resort-like,” Christina said.

Many camps also were affiliated with a church or an organization, of which you had to be a member to attend, she said.

So the Kings, who are both educators with the Fayette County school system, decided to start a camp of their own.

The Toodle Langa summer camp will offer four week-long sessions in a forest located off Big Hill Road where Madison and Rockcastle counties meet.

Christina said they are dedicated to putting the “camp” back in summer camp.”

Parents would drop off their children on a Sunday afternoon and pick them up the following Saturday.

Children will be divided into four camps named after the elements: Earth, Wind, Fire and Water.

The campers can participate in a week-long scavenger quest and solve riddles to find items hidden in the four different base camps.

Darin, who once created an entire porch and fence with pallet boards, will show campers how to repurpose pallets to make useful and unique furniture.

Campers will learn to make paper, natural dyes for T-shirts and even a bike-powered blender (plans for a bike-powered ice cream churner is in the works).

One day will be dedicated to a hike and a workshop on being comfortable in the forest.

A licensed herbalist will show campers what plants to stay away from and which plants can soothe a bee sting or sun burn, Christina said.

In the evenings, campers will gather together and prepare a family-style dinner by the campfire. After dinner, there will be recreation time during which volunteers will host workshops in Frisbee basics, free-form recycled art and sculpture, music or drama.

Toodle Langa is part of the American Camp Association, she said, and will follow its guidelines and standards to qualify for accreditation next year.

The Kings will practice the “leave no trace” mentality by leaving their campsite in the same condition or better than they found it, Christina said.

Campers will have access to three spring water showers and four eco-friendly, sanitary composting toilets.

Because the Kings have four children and know how expensive camp can be for families, they are offering 20 full and 20 partial scholarships for families who meet income-based guidelines, Christina said.

The scholarships are awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis and there are only 20 scholarships left for this summer.

Many parents are planning to trade tuition costs for supply donations and volunteer time.

The Kings are leasing the forest property, she said, but hope to purchase land in the future to make a more permanent home for Toodle Langa.

“We’re really trying to make this camp self-sustainable,” Christina said. “We don’t want to go into debt. We don’t want to make a huge profit. We just want to run camp.”

The deadline for registration is May 1 (or until all spots are filled). For details, visit

Crystal Wylie can be reached at or 623-1669, Ext. 6696. 

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