Saturday, August 9, 2008

Hello, Mudda....

[With the exception of the last photo on this page, these kids are not my own, but they are actual campers this week at Camp Uni]

I hate to belabor the point, but nine kids means no money. I lived with many a hand-me-down and very little "extras." That's not to say we didn't have a great time, because we certainly did, but we did not have money for extravagant expenditures like summer camp.

Mom did take us to Girl Scout day camp (she was the song leader wherever we went!), but until I was in 6th grade, I had never gone to an overnight camp. Thanks to a scholarship fund, I was invited to go to YMCA's Camp U-Nah-Li-Ya when I was 12 years old. While I had never been away from home without someone I knew, I wanted to go, so I packed up my gear and left for a week in the good ol' outdoors. Some of my memories of "Uni" that week include:

*The feeling of independence (mingled with fear) and triumph of taking a canoe out by myself.

*The joyous atmosphere in the dining hall; being afraid (yet secretly hopeful) of getting caught with "the Gizmo," which meant you would have to kiss the moose that night at dinner.

*Singing around the campfire and doing silly skits in the amphitheater, feeling part of something big and happy.*Feeling cared for unconditionally by the "cool" counselors.

*Eating loads of delicious food at dinner and being able to buy sugary snacks in the canteen!

*Dealing with a little homesickness by feigning a headache and going to the Camp Nurse for a little TLC.

*Best of all, being carefree.I only went to camp once, but the experience left an indelible mark on my spirit. When my own kids got old enough, we found the money to send them to Camp U-Nah-Li-Ya, and they've attended for the past 6-8 years. The first few years, we helped them sell candy bars to pay for it. Today, they help pay with babysitting money. Kyle was a Counselor-in-Training this year (He is like the Pied Piper of kids; they love him.) Next year, he'll be able to volunteer for a whole month (and not have to pay). When he stopped in to the camp last Wednesday to say hi and help out at a dance (Kendall was there), he was greeted with loud, enthusiastic cheers of "Kyle!!" (He said he felt like a celebrity.) Kendall comes home tomorrow.

Every child should have the experience of going to an overnight camp; every single one. If you have fun camp memories (or wish you had), please consider volunteering at a camp or making a scholarship donation to a camp in your state. You will be giving someone an experience they will remember for the rest of their lives.(Kendall and friends at camp this week.)

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