A taste of the experience he missed

Avery Chick, NLJ Correspondent

Photo by Avery Chick/NLJ

Simone and Jeremy Bland visit with Jess Cassiday during a Mallo event on June 4 and 5. Jeremy’s classmate, Koree Khongphand-Buckman, put together the weekend to mirror the Newcastle Elementary School fifth-grade Mallo experience, since Bland was unable to attend with the rest of his class. 


Elementary school is that time in our lives when we’re most malleable. We are shaped by the experiences we have when we are young, and one of the most memorable for anyone who attended Newcastle Elementary School is almost always the fifth grade Mallo Camp trip. 

In fifth grade, as sort of an elementary graduation present, the school’s staff takes students to the famed Mallo Camp to experience a couple of stress-free days immersed in the wonders of the Black Hills National Forest. 

The kids get to stay in old-fashioned cabins that are equipped with rickety bunk beds that give them feelings of “going to camp,” and participate in activities that hold true to the “roughing it” feel. They can be found panning for gold, competing in fishing competitions, learning to shoot in marksmanship and archery, conducting science experiments, acquiring survival skills, making shirts and so much more. 

The experience is literally a right of passage for each fifth-grader who attends NES.

Although packing up and heading up the hill for a couple of days has become a long-standing tradition, not every one of Newcastle’s past classes of fifth graders were given the ability to experience this one-of-a-kind camp. 

The Mallo Camp tradition was unfortunately before Jeremy Bland’s time, but his friend and Newcastle High School Hall of Fame member, Koree Khongphand-Buckman, felt that no one should have to miss out on this great opportunity. 

With that in mind, Koree and her nephew, 2022 NHS graduate Zade Orsborn, created an experience that was as similar as possible to the fifth grade adventure. They organized everything they could think of – from food plans for three days, activities for each day, sleeping arrangements for nearly 60 people (25 or them being NES Alumni). They even got former NES principal Bette Sample and her husband, Ron, to grace the guests with their presence, and tell the famed “Stumpy” story that both delighted and terrified generations of giggling campers.

The guests all arrived on June 3 and either set up their campers in the lot or got settled into one of the rustic cabins for the next couple of days. Dinner was served that night, and shortly after the Samples arrived to begin the campfire and ghost story experience. 

“I thought it was awesome to bring back two teachers who have been part of the experience for 30 years. … It made it very authentic and special,” Khongphand-Buckman said.  “I think we’re really lucky to have something like that. Everyone had a great time.” 

“It was awesome, I really loved how everyone was super involved. We had kids from the age of only 2, all the way up to adults participating and having fun,” said Bland, who now lives in Sheridan. “I thought it was really amazing of her to do that for me as a friend, and I would just like to thank her for all that she’s done and for being such a great person.”


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