Prepared, Not Scared: arming kids with knowledge

By MOLLY DAVIDSON / Staff Writer

PELHAM—Verna Gates, founder and executive director of Fresh Air Family, was inspired to start the “Prepared, Not Scared” camp by her experience as a journalist covering the Amy Bishop trial for the 2010 University of Alabama at Huntsville shooting.

“We’ve got to teach these kids gun safety,” Gates said, explaining people were saved when one woman’s survival instincts kicked in.

Prepared, Not Scared aims to teach fourth through seventh grade children a variety of important survival skills, from wilderness survival to standing up to bullying.

“It’s a safety and survival course,” Gates said, adding the five-day sessions aim to give children confidence in any situation. “You know you can make it if the world turns upside down.”

Children are first taught the STOP method, which stands for stop, think, observe and plan, Gates explained. They then apply this method to a variety of survival situations.

The camp equips children with tools to survive in the wild. Campers learn skills from hands-on experience and through games, from basic skills such as map and compass reading, to advanced skills such as building a debris shelter, collecting water from foraging for food.

“The children love to be outside,” Gates said. “They love a bit of a challenge. We make it fun to learn these things.”

The camp also focuses on important modern safety issues, such as bullying, avoiding predators, internet safety and gun safety. The use of “age-appropriate materials” and visitors such as Jefferson County Sheriff Mike Hale teach campers how to survive in active-shooter situations, basic self-defense techniques, how and when to stand up to bullying and to trust their instincts.

“It really is a wonderful camp,” Gates said. “It really gives kids a lot of life skills.”

Fresh Air Family offers four sessions of the Prepared, Not Scared camp throughout the summer at various locations including Oak Mountain State Park, Red Mountain Park, and the Trussville Athletic Center.

Dates, locations and price information can be found on the Fresh Air Family website,