Nope it’s not a camp FOR the grandparents…well, maybe it is a little for them. It’s a week of summer camp for the grandchildren BY the grandparents. A win-win-win coming from the parents’ perspective. Free! Positive! Educational! Nurturing! Filled with lots of fun activities and sugary drinks and snacks! What’s not to love??
My parents just hosted their 4th annual Grandparent camp at their home in the beautiful mountains of Boone, NC. I assist and participate every summer as camp counselor, and my parents and I plan and look forward to this week all year. My mom is an elementary school music teacher and children’s minister at her church and thus has oodles of creative ideas. Camp themes have varied from learning about countries and cultures around the world to arts and NC folklife. This year, Grandparent Camp was focused on service to the community.
Throughout the week and in between the traditional arts and crafts, singing, canoeing and swimming, the kids were engaged in various service projects. On Day 1 the kids made homemade dog biscuits from scratch and then took them along with donations of supplies and food to the local humane society. Once at the shelter, we spent the morning playing with the cats, feeding our ‘Snickerpoodles’ to the dogs and taking 3 carefully selected dogs for walks (too many sweet ones to choose from). The kids loved giving the animals much needed attention and exercise, and the dogs gobbled up their special treats!
On Day 2, we all volunteered at the F.A.R.M Café (Feeding All Regardless of Means) which is a restaurant staffed by volunteers that provides healthy meals with local ingredients to anyone who enters their doors for suggested donations. “At F.A.R.M. Cafe, customers pay what they can. Those who can pay more than the daily suggested donation will be encouraged to do so, so that others who cannot afford a meal can simply eat. Those who cannot pay may volunteer for an hour in exchange for a meal.” It’s a really neat place with a wonderful mission to feed all. As volunteers, we rolled silverware and broke down boxes and enjoyed a tasty lunch of chicken with a delicious sauce or bean burgers, various prepared vegetable dishes, brown rice, fresh green salad and homemade desserts. Even my seven year old tried some new foods and gave a thumbs up to the bean burger.
On Day 3, we talked about homelessness and poverty. The kids baked cookies and brownies for the Wednesday night dinner at the local homeless shelter, The Hospitality House. We also visited the new Habitat for Humanity development that is being built near my parents’ house and explained how that organization provides affordable housing. My mom read Grandpa’s Hammer, a children’s book about Habitat and told them how she and my Dad helped to start the Habitat for Humanity affiliate in Boone and have contributed multiple hours over the years as volunteers through work on the construction site and in administration.
My mother served as the volunteer Executive Director when it first began and now my Dad continues as a Board Member. My parents have always been very service-oriented through church and community groups and are excellent models of helping others. Through this cherished time of Grandparent Camp, my parents taught the value of giving time, heart and financial resources to spread the messages of caring, sharing and peace. Each day at camp we also spent a little time painting a peace pole with “Peace” written in several languages and decorated with colorful hearts and peace signs. The peace pole will be displayed in the garden of the Watauga County Public Library.
Grandparent Camp 2012 was an eventful, meaningful week. My 13 year old nephew was not sure whether to attend Grandparent Camp this year. He was feeling like he was aging out but decided to come another year. He was a helpful C.I.T. (Counselor in Training) and in the end said “I thought volunteering sounded boring, but it turned out to be pretty cool.” I think he had enough of a good time that he just might come again next year.
Grandparent camps are a growing trend and a wonderful way to spend quality time and to share important lessons and values with grandchildren. Here are some more Tales about Grandparent Camp. I like this recent blog, Teaching your Kids the Importance of Service by Matt Miglarese of Durham Cares, and here are two other posts I’ve written with a theme of children and service.
Whether it’s just a week of summer vacation at home, Grandparent or Auntie camp, consider planning your activities around service to others in need. You can connect with volunteer opportunities for children and families in the area through the United Way of the Greater Triangle.