Lumberjack Games

By John Lefner

Amid a heaping pile of chicken fingers, French fries and barbecue sauce, the Beaver cabin campers anxiously discuss their afternoon activities.

While some boys plan to head to the indoor pool for relay races, others look forward to making silver dog-tags at arts and crafts.

The remainder of the cabin is heading to the recreation field for one of the most sought-after free-choice activities--the Lumberjack Games.

Modeled after the popular ESPN outdoor-sports competition, Double H Lumberjack Games has become a popular activity that combines teamwork, physical activity and problem-solving in the great outdoors.

Campers work together to complete tasks at different stations, such as the flapjack toss, bucket brigade, flannel-shirt relay, sack race, team rope-burn and fire-building.

Under the supervision of Outdoor Extreme (nature and camping program) and Team Adventure (sports and recreation) leaders, campers put the skills they have learned throughout the summer into practice; the process helps kids understand and answer the old question, “When am I going to use this?”

There are two important camp goals reflected in the Lumberjack Games.

First, all programs and activities must be 100-percent accessible to allow campers with life-threatening illnesses to participate fully. Supplies are strategically placed, and multiple solutions to challenges are provided to encourage each camper to play a role in the accomplishments of the team.

Second, the emphasis on intentional programming identifies what kids will gain from an activity (tangible, physical skills accompanied by heightened self-confidence, for example), so that staff members can continue to design programs that allow for personal and team growth--skills that will remain with campers long after they have left the grounds.

Most importantly, the games are fun, which is what camp is all about.

Watching campers throw a pancake for distance, pass (and spill) buckets of water, and spend time with friends while building skills makes for a very sweet summer.

Here is a rundown of the events:

Flapjack toss --Give teams stacks of cooked pancakes to throw like Frisbees at a target for points.

Bucket brigade --Arrange teams to pass a bucket of water down the line, and then dump the contents over a counselor’s head.

Flannel-shirt relay --Direct teams to a designated location to put on large flannel shirts over their clothing; teammates then pass the shirt along relay-style to the next participant to put on.

Sack race --Get campers into burlap sacks to make their way from one spot to another (adapt this for kids who use wheelchairs by having both ends of the bag open).

Fire-building contest --Instruct teams to work together to construct an efficient, easy-to-light campfire.

Team rope-burn --String a rope above a small, controlled campfire; the team whose rope burns first wins.

John Lefner is the assistant director of operations at the Double H Ranch, a year-round program for kids diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses, located in Lake Luzerne, NY. For information on the Double H Ranch, visit