AND WE'RE OFF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
We have completed Week 1 of Summer 2016 and it was a huge success. Week 1 was a 7 - 11 year old kids camp and we had 89 Overnight Campers, 54 Day Campers and 15 3rd year CLTDs. With Carnival as the theme, we had a great kick off to the summer.
There were many highlights from the week and I wish I could share them all but these things take time and there is still lots to do. But the intention of these emails is to give you a taste of what is happening at camp and to remind you of what it is you support and are praying for.
So, to start off with, we are blessed this year with lots of staff and so we are able to have a few people on a work crew who are completing many projects around the camp. Last week this mighty crew of 6 people painted all of the picnic tables, built two Gaga Ball Pits (more on this in a moment), removed the bushes from around the gym and built a trench to cut down on the amount of flooding that was happening in the gym, covered for staff as needed and did much, much more. Having a work crew is a huge blessing to the camp and especially to our Site Coordinator Vic (Poppa Smurf). This is Poppa Smurf's first summer with us and he is doing an incredible job leading this work crew. Great job work crew. Poppa Smurf even remarked later during Dead Cow Ceremony that they almost ran out of things to do because the work crew knocked it out of the park.
Gaga Ball????? What's that??? As many of you know, we are really exploring new ways to offer programming and activities to the campers and Gaga Ball is our newest edition. It is basically dodge ball on steroids. The way it works is kids get into the Gaga Ball Pit which is an octagon made of plywood. Using a rubber playground ball, kids try to get each other out of the game by hitting other kids with the ball. They can only touch the ball with their hands and if one sends the ball out of the pit then one is out. The game goes until there is only one standing. We've only had the game here for a few days now and it is a HUGE!!!!!!!!!!! hit. Great new addition to the camp. Please, ask to play Gaga Ball next time you are out. I'll for sure play.
Our guest speaker this week was Hanneke Boersema. Hanneke is the children's pastor at First Assembly church and she did an amazing job with the kids during the Fireside sessions. I have never seen someone use so many props during sermons. It was awesome. Thanks Hanneke for blessing us with your ministry.
We have partnered again with Gateway this year and had a very successful week. Gateway is a program for young people who have had a minor run in with the law and need to do community service so that they do not end up with a criminal record. To improve the program on our end this year we hired a Gateway Coordinator who looks after all of the Gateway young people. This is a great way for Camp Chestermere to support the community and to help children have a second chance.
The Dead Cow Ceremony is back. Dead Cow is celebrated on Friday night after final gratis. We eat, we celebrate, we laugh and we reflect on the week. Dead Cow is a throw back to former Director Frank Littel (Pumba) and it is something we brought back last year and will continue to do moving forward. Some traditions just shouldn't die and this is one of them. An addition to Dead Cow now is after we eat, all of the staff share a highlight of the week. Here are a few of the highlights.
My highlight of the week came on Thursday night. We have a few soccer fans on site and there was a big match last Thursday between France and Germany. On Monday one of our Summer Staff, Coopa, asked me if he and a few of the staff could come over Thursday night to watch the game. He asked me to PVR the game for them. When he asked me he said there would maybe be 3 or 4 of them. Then on Wednesday he said, "Hey Coach, there may be like 7 of us now. Is that ok?" You can see where this is going. By the time we sat down to watch the match on Thursday night there were 14 people in my basement watching the game until 11:45 pm. At 10 pm I had to make an emergency run to Safeway to grab snacks for everyone. Great event and I loved the fact that Coopa asked and planned the party. Great night.
One of work crew made this observation of camp: "I wasn't with kids, but during chapel I met this kid who was kind of alone, he started talking to me and asking questions about the speaker being bias because she said there was only one true God, we ended up having a really good talk about it, and he ended up buying a bible." Honestly, I think we set a record last week for the number of Bibles bought and/or handed out.
On that note, we made a change last year. When we bring our bottles back we put all of this money into a fund to but bibles for kids. That way if a kid wants a bible and can't afford it then we give them a bible. You can support this program at any time by dropping bottles off at the camp. It's a super practical way for us to get bibles into kids hands.
One other story related to this is one of our cabin leaders said she met a child who had never heard of the Bible and had no idea what a Bible was. On Friday this same child asked her cabin leader for a Bible and then spent the morning asking her cabin leader to read her story after story from the Bible. Awesome.
There is also a lot of fun that happens at camp. One staff member remarked: "All my campers were playing around, jumping on my stomach and I jokingly said "I'm dying" because it was uncomfortable and one girl yelled for everyone to get off and she punched me in the chest screaming "CPR" because she wanted to save me." From last we heard, no AED was needed.
Another Cabin Leader remarked that his favourite time was beach time. He said that there were a group of kids who weren't even in his cabin but wanted to play with him every day. They were making chocolate milk out of the sand. Another Cabin Leader spoke of beach time as well and remarked that there was a community bucket project that got bigger and bigger everyday as the campers worked together to build an elaborate river system on the beach. I just love these stories because I remember doing all of those things on the beach when I was a kid. Seriously, in some ways, this job keeps you young.
This story is one of my favourites that was told. We say it over and over that our number one value is Relationships. I think this story captures the heart of that: "Definitely the community after the campers went home, because I kind of had a rough week, and because I spent all my time with one camper in particular, as well as going to stampede work at 5am, it was difficult, but the highlight was when everything calmed down and I could spend quality time with people." Relationships is what we do and it is what helps all of us when we have a bit of a rough week.
There are so many more stories of fun, pranks, shenanigans and powerful moments in Fireside. As I said before, it was a great way to kick off the summer. There is a lot of admin work going on behind the scenes as well and the possibility of some new programs as well. Its busy but its awesome. Stay tuned for more great stories from the Summer of 2016.