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Encampment

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I know I haven’t been around much lately, but most of June was a blur for me because of this place. Please enjoy a brief photographic essay on Girl Scout Outreach Day Camp. (Special shout out goes to Miss Sara Marksberry – my trusty side-kick through the somewhat rocky but always entertaining 2nd week!)

 

In the dining hall – one of the things I love about the camp is the advanced age of many of the structures. Makes me feel like I’m in The Parent Trap. (You know, the real one with Hayley Mills.)

 

One day for lunch we were served hot dogs. On hamburger buns. I understand that they are the same as a hot dog buns only in a different shape (like spaghetti and penne). But try explaining that with any success to a picky 6 year old who is already leery of the “burn marks” on the nicely grilled dog.

 

During our second week the camp ranger was setting this up for a group coming in the week after us. We had no idea that we owned such a thing. Now that the cat’s out of the bag, I think we might be requesting this next year. I think it would make an excellent home base for the directors :).

 

One thing at lunch that nearly everyone ate happily. I say nearly everyone because I don’t particularly like watermelon. (Please send your hate mail to KimKnowsSheIsUnamericanForDislikingWatermelonAndChocolate@yourmom.com)

 

Ahh- tie dye. The craft I have a love-hate relationship with. I run the tie dye station every year. And every year I HATE tie dye while I’m setting up the gallons of water that must be carried from the dining hall out to the picnic tables and mixing the endless bottles of dye which gets EVERYWHERE and soaking and wringing out hundreds of t-shirts in the soda ash solution that dries out my hands and comforting a panicked child who just got dye on her pants after she was REPEATEDLY warned not to walk around the table with the dye bottle in hand and finally convincing skeptical girls to WEAR GLOVES only to watch them take the gloves off when finished with their shirt and then dip their hands into the puddles of dye leftover on the tables because it “looked fun”. And then the next day I start to forget all of that and begin daydreaming about what dye designs I’ll use next year. And when next year rolls around I’ll sign up for the fun all over again.

 

This long and painstaking process which results in to weeks during which we bus girls out to the wilds of camp from their city neighborhoods is so involved and full of stories that I can’t even begin to chronicle it all here. But I will leave you with my most potent memory of camp this year – what will affect ME (not just the Work Me). This year we had a very high number of girls who came to camp without something important that they needed. Particularly bathing suits and/or shorts. A tiny little fire cracker of a girl named London told me she forgot her suit the first day so I gave her some shorts and a shirt we had in our “extras” stash to swim in that first day. The next day she told me she forgot her suit AND the clothes I had given her and could she please have some more clothes to swim in. After some digging we learned that she didn’t just forget her suit – she doesn’t own one. We were able to get her a suit on the third day and when I called her over to give it to her she took one look at it and screamed. “Its PINK! And I can keep it?!?” I nodded yes and the smile she flashed actually gave me goosebumps. She attacked me with a bear hug adding, “my momma’s gonna be SO happy!”

While London’s reaction was by far the most dynamic, her situation was not particularly unique. We’d notice a girl wearing heavy, too-big jeans (the same pair each day) in 90 degree heat and find out from her leader that she also didn’t bring a bathing suit. We’d investigate and learn that she doesn’t own a suit OR shorts. In every case we were able to provide the missing clothing article and allow the girls to feel normal – one of the group. Perhaps the most striking situation we had like this was that of Maria. She was about 6 years old, face-meltingly adorable, enthusiastic, teensy-tiny, and spoke very broken English. She came to camp the first day (90 degree high) wearing a a school uniform shirt, school uniform pants, and heavy sneakers that were at least twice as big as her actual feet. We asked her if she had shorts or a t-shirt she could wear the next day but we weren’t sure how much she was comprehending. The next day she arrived wearing the same shoes and pants and, instead of a short sleeved uniform shirt she wore a long sleeved turtle neck. We found shorts and a t-shirt for her. And this sort of thing just kept happening – at a rate about 9 times higher than in previous years.

Randy and I were discussing this trend, these girls, and I told him about one of our volunteers who helped us get many of the bathing suits we handed out. She is involved in her city community center and with various social programs where she routinely encounters kids who don’t have basic stuff they need (proper shoes, bathing suit, shorts etc.). So she makes it a point in her everyday life to look for kids and teen bathing suits (among other items) at yard sales and thrift stores and whenever she finds them she buys them all up, takes them home and washes them, and maintains a stash to pull from whenever she finds a kid who needs something. We were bowled over by how amazingly simple but potentially life changing this one little act could be. Sure, a bathing suit doesn’t sound life changing at first gander. But think about it. Think about being a kid. At a community center with a pool. And you have no bathing suit. Many pools have rules against wearing street clothes in the water. So you’re out. Ineligible. You will miss out on all of those experiences so fundamental to childhood in the summer. You will feel alienated and deprived. You will feel different. When you think about it like that, a bathing suit can be life changing. And it just takes someone like me, who makes enough money to  buy a bathing suit AND a pool membership AND a trip to Florida to spend pocket change and spare time to make it happen. My question to myself is: Why would I NOT do something like this?!?

One response »

  1. I don’t routinely come across kids in need of bathing suits, but I DO go to yard sales. Perhaps I can start buying them and give them to you for just such occasions! I had never thought of it. 🙂

    Reply

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