I'm lying awake at camp
"What is camp?" I asked in our first year at a parents meeting at Madonna.
Several folks piped up to explain it is a camp where the kids and teachers stay overnight at the 4-H grounds near Louisville, NE. The kids participate in all kinds of nature and outdoor activities.
The first year camp was available to my son, we thought he may not like the overnight aspect but when the time came, we went for it. We listened to him share his experience. He felt safe and comfortable because he knows all the campers as they all attend his school.
Coach V. asked me three years ago if I would consider being a parent volunteer. They needed adult males to stay with a group of young lads. I agreed.
Which brings me to tonight, or rather early morning, as I cannot sleep. I lie awake thinking of so many awesome events I’ve witnessed today. Even on my third camp with Madonna, I am emotionally awake at what has transpired around me today.
The day began with a hearty lunch and the traditional banner making. This entails picking a theme and then each student contributes artistically to the banner. You really see the creativity and ownership shine in each student as the banners are displayed in the main lodge. (Eventually judged by the cooks on the last day.)
I walked down to the pond as they are fishing and canoeing. There were smiles and laughter on the way back which is a good half mile hike and a good-sized incline.
Then many students opted to shoot hoops across the way and the rest blew bubbles and drew with sidewalk chalk. Soon it is time for dinner and all the campers file into respective restrooms to wash up. Our prayer is led by the music therapist intern. She based the shared devotion on a Superman theme complete with actions. So I had to join right in.
I sat at a table with two other adults and the rest are young men and one lucky lady from Iowa, who travels 45 miles each way to attend Madonna. Truly a rose between two thorns. We feasted on baked chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn, and cake for dessert, even a serve yourself salad bar. What a pleasant dinner and I was pleasantly surprised at the manners at our table. Campers cleared their plates and they took turns washing the table and chairs. Another Dad said to me, "Can they come to my house to clean like that?”
Next, the kids choose their own outdoor materials and created art that all turned out very nicely. As the sun began to set, it came time for the night hike. Flashlights in hand they headed out and the staff and volunteers intermingled with the group starting on the trail. At the turnaround point the word is passed down “Turn out the light and see how dark it is…”
When they return to the lodge, the fire is blazing and ready for s'mores. The students sit on benches around the fire pit and take turns roasting marshmallows (under the careful watch of the staff). The music therapists play songs and the students sing along.
Now they were pretty tuckered out and headed to their respective cabins. It took only mild coaxing for our crew to be ready for lights out. Then the round of good nights began which was reminiscent of the Walton's. They all fell quickly asleep.
But my mind is stirring. I toss and turn and I am just awake. Probably too much excitement; maybe it’s the s'mores. Actually, I think I know what it is:
This is yet another example of the Madonna Program working to make the lives of so many children, including my son, complete. He really doesn’t have friends in the neighborhood because he is different. He does not try new things well, he is rigid and many times we have to force him to do something new that most kids do not have any reservation about. But here, I have witnessed a truly enlightening experience watching the staff work with these wonderful, special people. Camp is one part of the puzzle that empowers and enables in such a joyful way.
All of the kids enjoy camp as any other child would and the staff and handful of volunteers make it happen.
You know, French toast, bacon, and eggs is starting to sound really good. I will depart after breakfast, but the campers still have archery, trail hikes, and organized games before lunch.
I may need an extra cup of coffee in the morning, but it’s worth it.
Guest Blogger: Madonna Parent Brent Hodgen (c)