Hobo Jungle campers were, seated, Tyler Matula at left, and Owen Linde with top Jack Schott, left, and Myles Naylor. (Marilyn Thomas/H-F Chronicle)
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Hobo Jungle lets kids create with hammers, nails and paint 

Every castle needs a throne, so kids built one from a discarded chair for their Royal Swaggy Potato Knights castle in Flossmoor.

It was a beautiful place with walls that stood about five-foot tall, decorated with multi-colored hues. A horse was painted on a likely drawbridge. For fun, the castle had a tire swing.

  • Hobo Jungle campers were, seated, Tyler Matula at left, and Owen Linde with top Jack Schott, left, and Myles Naylor. (Marilyn Thomas/H-F Chronicle)
    Hobo Jungle campers were, seated, Tyler Matula at left, and Owen Linde with top Jack Schott, left, and Myles Naylor. (Marilyn Thomas/H-F Chronicle)

Parents and guests came Aug. 4 to admire the castle and two other structures at the end of Hobo Jungle, an annual Homewood-Flossmoor Park District summer camp that lets kids take cast-off wood and other articles and create to their hearts’ desires.

This year there were three two-week sessions, each for 30 builders, that let kids ages 7 to 13 work in teams. They learned a safety regimen before being allowed to dig through the pile of discarded material in a fenced-in area adjacent to the baseball fields at Flossmoor Park. The materials are collected over the year by park district staff. 

Rules were important as the kids handled hammers, saws and nails. Safety glasses were essential. 

Olivia Sanderskim, 9, said her favorite color is red, “but we’re going to use blue” on her team’s project. She was okay with that.

Eleanor Kinne went for the brown paint so she could finish the horse she was painting on the side of the castle.

Two return campers, Ollie Pearson, 12, and Graham McEowen, 9, said they asked to come back for a second year. Ollie described the experience as “really cool” and Graham said he’d asked his mom to sign him up again “because the last time it was really fun.”

Jack Schott, 12, said Hobo Jungle gave him “a new experience with building and I had a really fun time on my team and I had productive teammates” who worked on the castle.

Counselor Faith Lee, a 2021 graduate of Homewood-Flossmoor High and student at the University of Illinois, was spending her third summer with kids at Hobo Jungle.

“A lot of kids love this camp so they come back. They come up with these elaborate ideas of what kind of structure they want to make. They get it done for the most part,” she said.

Then it’s tear down time. The structures were disassembled, the wood returned to the pile, and a tarp was placed over it. Park district staff will grow the pile over the next several months so it’s ready for the next Hobo Jungle camp in 2023.

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