(NOTE: This is a continuation of a series about my week as a counselor at Royal Family Kids Camp, a camp for foster children, most of whom have been the victim of some kind of abuse. To read what has gone before, see the links at the bottom of this post.)
Chapel and dinner were accompanied by some acting out and personal issues. Sue pouted when I wouldn’t allow her to work on her keychain lanyard while everyone else was singing. And at dinner Jane struggled to stop when she was satisfied rather than continuing to eat until she felt sick. By this time of day, everyone was beginning to tire, and I had come to expect a few problems. But spirits and energy levels were lifted by the balloons and birthday napkins in the dining hall, the cupcakes on the dinner plates, and the party preparations that were going on in the field between the pool and the Chapel.
Where Are Your Campers?
By the time we finished eating and checked our mailboxes, the party was in full swing. We released our campers, within a limited perimeter of course, and stood back to watch them have fun. There were three bounce houses, a climbing wall, popcorn, snow cones, face painting, fake tattoos, and balloon sculptures. I sat in a vacant chair under the tattoo tent for part of the evening, but I also spent some of it limping around, keeping an eye on Jane and Sue. The camp director had told us during training that the one thing we never wanted to hear from him was Where are your campers? I took that to heart and tried my best to keep both of them in sight, even when they were going in opposite directions.
Sue was a bit of a loner. She bounced from one group of kids to another, but she frequently went off on her own. She visited the face painting
area, and as usual, she had her own idea about what she wanted. Instead of a simple butterfly or flower on her cheek, she wanted her whole face painted like a tiger. The teen helper who was wielding the brush was intimidated, but with lots of input from Sue, she produced a unique face that pleased both of them.
The personal challenge of the climbing wall appealed to Sue’s independent spirit, and her long, thin legs made her a natural at it. I spotted her on it several times, and one of her best pictures was taken when she was at its peak.
Jonatha on the other hand was more interested in her friends and the boys than the other party attractions. She enjoyed the popcorn and snow cones, but she had no interest in a tattoo or a painted face. She also had no desire to scale the wall. She went down the slide on a couple of the bounce houses, but most often I spotted her in a cluster of giggling girls. I found one such cluster at the base of one of the slides where a couple of particularly attractive young men were stationed to prevent accidents. As I did my counselor duty and ran the girls off, they continued to giggle and the boys looked relieved.
At 8:15 the outside activities were shut down and everyone was herded into the Chapel for a dance. The music was cranked up to the ear-splitting level the kids love, and we rocked the joint, or rather they did. Most of the counselors joined in, especially those with campers who were too young or too timid to feel comfortable on the dance floor by themselves. Fortunately Jane and Sue were social enough and fueled by enough sugar and adrenaline that I was able to find a quiet spot on the sidelines to prop my foot up and observe. I watched conga lines, line dancing, YMCA, the Macarena, everything except the chicken dance.
Happy Birthday to You
After half an hour, the music stopped and the director told the campers to sit down on the floor and asked the counselors to come up on stage. When we were all in place, we sang a rousing version of “Happy Birthday,” and I made a special effort to make eye contact with each of my birthday girls.
No birthday party is complete without presents, of course, so as we left the stage, each of us picked up two thin, plastic cases, one for each camper. I had no trouble finding Jane and Sue. They fought through the mob to get to me as the words MP3 Player floated through the room. Each child received his or her own player, pre-programmed with all the camp songs and some additional Christian music. We had been cautioned not to open the cases until we got back to the rooms so that precious pieces wouldn’t be lost. Good luck with that.
Bed time was hectic as usual, but in spite of all the excitement, the girls eagerly climbed into bed, most plugged in to their tunes. I told my girls one more time how special they were. Then I prayed with them, tucked them in, and went out to catch a ride back to Camp Central. I had two days worth of photos to go through, and there would be lots more to come. The Princess Tea Party was tomorrow afternoon, and the Camp Variety Show was tomorrow night.
For more information, go to the Royal Family Kids website.