Main Menu

Summer camp: it’s not just for kids

Summer camp: it’s not just for kids

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Summer camp: it’s not just for kids
Aug. 21, 2007  News media contact: Tita Parham*
800-282-8011  Orlando {0724}

An e-Review Feature
By Erik J. Alsgaard**

FRUITLAND PARK — You never know what you’ll see at church camp.

Maddie, age 6, was working hard. Gripping the handle firmly, she cranked it with all her might. Making ice cream the old-fashioned way, she discovered, was hard.

Gail and Bob Hogan help 6-year-old Maddie keep her balance while she experiences the hard work of making ice cream during the Grandparents and Me summer camp at the Florida Conference’s Life Enrichment Center. Photo by Erik J. Aslgaard. Photo #07-0648.

Good thing Gail and Bob Hogan from Dade City were standing next to her, helping her keep her balance. Maddie was standing on a chair, just tall enough to move the crank.

Making ice cream was just one of the activities grandparents and grandchildren were able to do together at the second annual “Grandparents and Me” camp, held at the Life Enrichment Center (LEC) in Fruitland Park this summer.

The camp, which drew triple the number of participants this year than in 2006, was one of a myriad of camps sponsored by the Florida Conference this summer, offering people of all ages an opportunity to build memories, grow closer to each other and grow closer to God.

“At Grandparents and Me camp, we focus on having activities that are appropriate for both the children and the adults,” said Melinda Trotti, manager of the LEC. “Children have what is like a day camp experience, and the grandparents have what is like a retreat experience.”

The camp, which ran for four days and three nights, featured old-fashioned ice cream making, boat rides, tie-dyeing T-shirts, hayrides, campfires and plenty of games.

This style of camp was something Trotti brought to the LEC from her previous experiences as a camp manager. The LEC, she said, was perfect for the camp because the adults were able to stay in an “adult-friendly” room, and the grandchildren got to stay with them.

“This is a chance for them to come together and build those relationships,” Trotti said.

Dan Greathouse, a member of First United Methodist Church in Gainesville, saw the announcement about the camp in his church’s newsletter. He brought two of his grandchildren, Caroline, 9, and Maddie. It was their first time attending.

Grandparents, he said, have had their own time together, apart from the children, for Bible study, free time and a quick trip to the on-campus Cokesbury bookstore. “We’re going to go back and really promote this camp,” he said.

Nancy Welch, from Heritage United Methodist Church in Clearwater, was also a first-time attendee.

“I wanted to spend some quality time with my granddaughter, Brianna,” she said. “I’ve enjoyed all the games because they have all these physical activity games that you think grandparents can’t do, and we’re running and doing them with the kids. It’s a lot of fun.”

Maddie — the ice cream maker — said doing that activity was her favorite part of camp. But then she quickly added, “I also liked the boat ride.”

Helping more people experience camp

Part of the mission of the Florida Conference’s camps and retreat ministries is providing the camp experience to a broader group of people. An important part of that goal is Camp Pioneer.

Camp Pioneer is a summer camp for adults who are mentally challenged. Started by a couple from the Florida Conference and operated under the Florida Conference Health and Wholeness ministry umbrella, the camp has been occurring each year since 1989.

The camp runs during the nine weeks that the conference’s summer camps for children and youth take place, and it used to be held at the Warren W. Willis United Methodist Camp across the street from the LEC. It has moved to the LEC, and having it there, Trotti said, is more appropriate because the adults can have their own apartments.

“We do all the usual camp stuff,” she said, noting the end-of-the-week talent show is a big hit.

But the highlight is bowling.

“Apparently, this has been an every-year tradition that they go bowling,” Trotti said. “Some of the campers even bring their own bowling balls with them.”

The LEC is also reaching out to its surrounding community through a two-week day camp that took place just after the Grandparents and Me camp. Twenty-two children, ages 5 to 12, went to camp each day and participated in arts and crafts, swimming in the pool and other activities, giving them a chance to learn what it’s like to go to camp — and possibly stay at an overnight camp next year.

Grandparents and their grandchildren enjoy an early evening boat ride during the Grandparents and Me summer camp at the Florida Conference’s Life Enrichment Center. Photo by Erik J. Aslgaard. Photo #07-0649.

“Particularly for low-income children, these kinds of experiences really help broaden their view of the world, who they can be and what they’re able to do, and what the world has to offer,” Trotti said.

“The population that is reflected in the diversity in our state has not been seen in our summer programs,” said the Rev. David Berkey, director of the camps and retreat ministries. “Low-income families and people of color have not participated, for one reason or another, and we’re making a concerted effort to include them in whatever ways are possible, through different types of programs and also through financial support.”

The day camp was started with funding from the Florida Conference Connectional Ministries office, which is supported by local church apportionment payments. In 2007 parents are being asked to pay partial fees, with the difference made up through scholarships.

Berkey and Trotti are excited about this connection with the local community for another reason. In a few years, the fifth-graders who attend this camp are going to be ready to be counselors.

“They love what we do,” Trotti said, noting that it takes about four years to build your own leaders. “You have to start small, start them young and build them into leaders.”

Previous day-campers were asked the one thing they wanted to do during camp. The answer? A campfire.

“Somehow, they learned that that was what camp was,” Trotti said.

And so, at one o’clock in the afternoon, on an otherwise hot-enough August Florida day, the day-campers and staff sat around a roaring camp fire, roasting marshmallows and telling ghost stories.

You never know what you’ll see at church camp.


This article relates to Camps and Retreat Ministries.

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Alsgaard is director of communications for the Florida Conference.