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Youth camp gets participants fired up

“I want to risk my life to save others,” said Jason Campbell, a high school student and junior firefighter. Though it seems like a lofty statement coming from a 16-year-old, for Campbell it’s only natural – firefighting is in his blood.

“My uncle is a firefighter, and my cousin came to this camp before,” Campbell said. “He told me how much fun it was, and I’ve always wanted to be a firefighter, so here I am.”

Campbell was one of more than 50 junior and cadet firefighters ages 14-18 who attended OYFETA, Ohio Youth Fire and EMS Training Academy, June 9-15. The weeklong residential camp draws participants from four states and is hosted by the Ohio State Firefighters’ Association Youth Programs Committee and sponsored by the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio. The Foundation provided grant money for camp operational expenses and scholarships for youth from their target 29-county region in southeastern Ohio.

This is the third year the camp has been held at Hocking College in Nelsonville, and each year’s class continues to impress Jerald Miller, an OYFETA volunteer and firefighter for the Lore City Fire Department.

“The challenge is to teach them the essentials in the classroom to get to the hands-on training outside,” Miller said. “They absolutely love being out here.”

During the camp, participants experience a combination of lectures on fire safety and training, which includes exercises with a model tower used to simulate an actual fire and response situation.

Miller said the importance of early training for young people pursuing a firefighting career cannot be underestimated.

“If they want to do this in the future, they have to get a head start,” he said.

Youth Programs Committee Chairman Todd German, chief at the Northern Union County Joint Fire and EMS District, said while they can teach participants the skills needed to become firefighters, teenagers are more likely to succeed if they arrive with a strong interest in the field. German also noted the valuable opportunity for camp participants to make progress toward their career goals.

“They already have a passion for firefighting when they come here,” German said, and added the financial support the camp has received from organizations like the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio have helped it to grow from its humble beginnings with a few participants in Union County.

“We couldn’t do it without all of our sponsors,” he said.

For more information about the Foundation, or to make an on-line donation, visit The Foundation for Appalachian Ohio’s Web site at or contact the Foundation at (740) 753-1111.  The Foundation for Appalachian Ohio is a regional community foundation and 501(c)(3) public charity, serving the 29 counties of Appalachian Ohio. The Foundation works with donors like you to foster access to opportunity for the region’s citizens through the power of charitable giving. All gifts to the Foundation are tax-deductible.  The Foundation is headquartered on Nelsonville’s historic Public Square in the heart of Appalachian Ohio.