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Idea Becomes Reality for Camp Creator

Elton Hayes | , WI Staff Writer | 7/26/2012, 2:30 p.m.

iThings 2 Collard Greens Has Early Positive Impact

Kathy English Holt needed to get away. Life's rigors began to take their toll and stress weighed on her like a boulder. An avid believer in the healing arts, she escaped to the Medissage Meditation Center in Mount Croghan, S.C.

As English Holt stood on the lip of a precipice during one of her early morning walks, the sun moved slowly on the horizon and its rays reflected off the pool of water in Black Creek. At that moment, the idea became as clear to her as the Carolina blue sky.

"What I saw were little girls in a circle in a clearing who were dancing, singing and talking," recalled English Holt, 55. "... That's when I said, 'little girls need to be here.'"

Five years have passed since English Holt's trip to South Carolina and her dream has finally blossomed into iThings 2 Collard Greens - a six week summer camp for girls ages 5-13. The camp runs June 25-Aug. 3 and 52 young girls are currently enrolled in its unique programs.

While much of an emphasis in today's society is placed on moving toward the future, iThings 2 Collard Greens - which meets at the Davis Center in Northwest - boasts a curriculum that's focused on the teachings and rich legacy of African-American women. Campers are placed into three groups: Nannie Helen Burroughs, Mary McLeod Bethune and Maggie Lena Walker, according to age, and receive a thorough introduction into the lives of and the contributions made by these pioneers. In fact, English Holt drew the inspiration for her camp from Borroughs, a prominent African-American educator and businesswoman.

"This initially started out as a dream at a one-week retreat in South Carolina," English Holt said. "I had taken a book on Nannie Helen Burroughs and I was very inspired by her work."

English Holt is a native Washingtonian, buttered in North Carolina, as she likes to say. The charismatic mother of two lives in Northwest and has long been a student and firm believer in healing modalities and practices massage therapy as well.

For six hours each day, the young girls are immersed in a number of diverse programs and activities that range from basic entrepreneurial development and etiquette to massage techniques and meditation. Gardening, public speaking and yoga and are just a few of the programs offered to campers. Despite their ages, parents said that the young girls not only enjoy the engaging activities, but also absorb and retain much of what they learn.

"I like that when you get a massage it calms you down and you are really relaxed," said eight-year-old camper Kayla Bell, who also says she enjoys spending time in the camp's garden. "I get to see things grow in a way that I've never seen them grow before."

Kayla's mother, Marie Mills, noticed the camp's impact on her daughter.

"She has a newfound interest in massage therapy and she loves learning about any type of history so she absorbs all the information about the [African-American pioneers] and what they bring to the different classes," said Mills, 44, who lives in Northeast. "I can see a difference in her. She's excited to come home every day and sing the different songs that they've learned. She's just learning a lot of new things."