I woke up Sunday morning filled with both excitement and anxiety. My list was checked, my bags were packed, and my neon welcome signs were ready except for the names – in case my campers didn’t get to come. We were due at Wes and Lisa’s by 11:00 am, so we made a final check and loaded the car. Ready or not…
We made a quick stop for pocket-sized flashlights and arrived in time to help finish loading the two trailers Wes and Lisa were pulling to camp. There were frameworks and backdrops for drama sets, material for activity centers, sports equipment, ice chests, and water – lots and lots of water.
About half way there we met the camp director and several other workers for a lunch of burgers and fries and enthusiastic chatter. We arrived at camp around 2:00 pm where set up was already in full swing. I didn’t know what was going on, so I grabbed an armload and asked directions.
“That goes to the Chapel.”
“That goes down the hill to Camp Central.”
“That goes in the sports equipment pile.”
It didn’t take long to figure out why we had brought so much water.
When the trailers were empty, we found our luggage and went to find our rooms. I was in room #1 in the Damascus Dorm. The room was about 30’x40’ and was crammed with 9 sets of bunk beds. There was a narrow aisle down the middle of the room and about 12 inches of space between each bunk. I was about to become very close friends with 5 other counselors and 12 pre-teen girls.
Several counselors had already moved in and were in the process of transforming the drab walls and the chicken-wire ceiling into a magical space that reflected the week’s theme: God’s Construction Zone. Friendships that had begun through e-mail planning sessions were solidified as faces were matched with names.
Before all the streamers and lights were hung and all the balloons were inflated it was time to go to the Chapel. The support staff was introduced and greeted with wild applause, and announcements were made. Some of the newbies tried to take notes, but most of us sat in confusion and hoped the veterans would be around when we had questions. Then we worshipped together, singing camp songs and praying for the children who would be arriving in less than 24 hours.
On our way out we collected stuff, lots of stuff:
- Our name badges
- Schedules so we could answer the question we would hear most for the next 5 days: What do we do next?
- Fanny packs and koozies to aid in our duties as pack animals for our campers
- Bags for campers with an activity book for quiet time, a white t-shirt for tie-dying, an orange t-shirt for the last day, and their name badges
- Green wrist bands with our campers’ names and their med times
After dinner we returned to the dorm to continue decorating, and then we walked over to Camp Central, one of the few places the campers weren’t allowed to enter. In one corner was the camp store filled with clothes, bedding, and other necessities our campers might need. Computers were set up in another corner, ready to process pictures taken by staff photographers throughout the week. Rows of wall pockets hung on the back wall, each labeled with a counselor’s name. Finished photos would be deposited into the appropriate pocket, ready to be put into albums for our campers to take home. The last corner contained tables loaded with snacks and ice chests full of water and soft drinks. The room was abuzz with the sound of tentative questions, reassuring answers, and new friendships.
As the adrenaline of the day drained away, I walked back to the dorm with the ladies who would be my family for the next few days. I took a shower, one of the few hot ones of the week as it turned out, and climbed into bed – the top bunk in the far corner. I lay there listening to the sounds of bodies trying to find a comfortable spot on thin, plastic-covered mattresses and to the soft, regular breathing of those who had found the spot. I thought about my campers. All I knew was their names and ages, that they both took meds, and that one was new to camp. I wondered what they would look like and how the trauma of their short lives had affected them. I wondered if they would both get to come and if one week at camp would make a difference. And I prayed.
For more information, go to the Royal Family Kids website.