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Just passing through: Rustic Youth Camp

A few locations on the Franklin County Pastport provide educational opportunities year-round for children and adults to partake in, like the Rustic Youth Camp on Cedar Creek Lake in Russellville.

RYC was originally founded in Jefferson County by Jackie and Bunny Richardson. It started as a small, wooden cabin with an outhouse and a gas refrigerator and stove. Jackie Richardson organized the first camp day as a way for the local children in the community to come together, have fun and learn skills like archery, gun safety and basket making. About 65 children showed up that first day, and they then decided to make it a yearly event.

When the opportunity arose to come back to Franklin County, Richardson – a Franklin County native – took it, and for a couple of years he operated the original camp in Jefferson County plus a new one in Franklin County.

“We were fortunate to locate this property,” Richardson said.

Eventually he closed the Jefferson site, but the Russellville RYC is celebrating its 40th anniversary this camp season. Richardson said over the decades, RYC has hosted more than 50,000 people.

The children’s summer camp season has become so popular, Richardson said spots fill up in less than a minute when registration opens online. RYC has hosted children from 43 states and 17 countries.

At the camp children still learn skills like blacksmithing and trap shooting, but for Richardson, the goal is much more than that.

“We want to give them a foundation of a belief in God and help them be good citizens,” he said. “I feel like we’ve done that. We’re blessed to have shared in their lives.”

Advanced from its modest beginnings, RYC now has a full commercial kitchen and dining room, bunkhouses, classrooms, sports facilities and more.