Monday, May 6, 2013

Family Day for Veterans - Part 2 - May 4, 2013

On Saturday the real work began, and by work, I mean a full day of awesome.
After an early breakfast, we broke into two groups: one group boarded a shuttle bus and headed to a nearby pond to do some fishing. The other group took a tractor-drawn wagon ride to the ropes course. Since my partner, Keri, was heading to the ropes course with some of the older children, I decided to go fishing with the others. Most of the parents chose to have their kids with them, so there really was not much for me to do...except join in the fishing.
Granted, I am pretty sure that I was as old as some of the younger children - the ones using the red and blue Spiderman poles - the last time I went fishing. And today I remembered why: I hate touching worms. Luckily, one of the veterans was nice enough to put a worm on my line, and after I caught my second fish, taught me how to de-hook the fish so I could throw him back in the pond. I was able to try my hand at that solo, when a young boy, Connor, caught his FIFTH fish! I told his dad he could catch our supper, lol. I unhooked his fish - poor little guy was snagged right through the left side of its lip - and hand Connor the fish so he could throw it back.

Young Connor catches his fifth fish of the day. I still say we should have let the children catch us dinner...

After lunch we had craft time - the veterans and older children transformed regular black and white composition books into journals, using glue, glitter, colored paper, tape, magazine photos, stickers, whatever struck their fancy.
The activities continued into the afternoon when the younger children (ages 11 and younger) headed to the gym for an obstacle course, while the older children were with me and a counselor, Annabelle, doing more journaling.

Two camp girls show off the journals they created.

Around 4 p.m., we were divided into two groups again: this time I was headed to the ropes course. Man, did it take me back to high school summer phy ed. There were three different climbing walls, each a different difficulty. Once you climbed to the top of the tower using one of the three walls, you then hooked into a zipline and weeeee! Away you went!
There was also a high-ropes course, approximately 50 feet above the ground. Only unlike my high school’s high ropes course, which had Jacob’s ladder and a post you climbed before jumping off to grab a trapeze, this course was connected. You walked onto a bridge and were hooked into the first station, where you grabbed a rope and walked across a wooden bridge. At the end you hooked into the second station and began crossing on rubber tires. The third section is when it started to get tricky. Unlike the two bridges, which had ropes you could grab onto for balance, the third station had no ropes. You could grab onto the rope connecting you to the zipline, but otherwise you had to cross the wooden log unaided. 

Camp staff Ben helps hook a young boy in for the climbing wall at Easter Seals WI's Family Camp for Veterans.

I thought that was tough enough...until I got to the fourth section. Although ropes were spaced out overhead, the real trick was reaching the five feet to the first rope, while walking a tightrope. I tried walking the tightrope straight on, but slipped and fell. I managed to catch myself before I zipped over to the other side, and from then on sidestepped across the tightrope. Once I reached the end of that section, it was time for the fifth and final part, which was also the easiest. It was basically a cargo net rope tunnel. The rope netted up high on either side, so you felt like you were cradled within the ropes, and it was just a matter of walking to the end.
Again, since I was technically with the children ages 13-17, there was very little babysitting or watching on my end, and it was more participating with everyone else, and visiting with the veterans and their families.

One of the youth at the Family Camp for Veterans scales one of the climbing walls. Once at the top, campers were able to hop a quick ride to the ground via a zipline.

Our night concluded with a kickball game with the children. About halfway through this 3-year-old, Jeremiah, joined in, and I just about died he was so cute. He came up behind me, with his hands out in front of him like claws, and chased me: Shark Attack! Nothing throws a wrench in a kickball game than a shark attack!
Afterwards we all gathered around a campfire for s’mores and campfire songs. Some of those were just so hilarious I could not stop laughing. Others I remember singing as a child, and now laughed because listening to the words, I can’t believe they are children’s songs. Henry the Worm, constantly increasing in size because he ate his sister, then brother, then mother, then dad, then shrunk when he burped them all up. I’m sitting there going, oh no! Matricide! I’m not feeling too good about his dad....
I finished up the night by talking with one of the veterans, Pat Jahnke. He and I were joking all day. He saw me come out in my camouflage pants and green shirt and was joking that we should play paintball in the woods later. Except he and one of his buddies would grab the paintball guns and I’d be hiding in the woods. I told them I’d be up for it, but they better be ready, because I would not make it easy on them. They would have to find me...

Weee! Parents and children alike enjoyed the climbing wall and zipline at the Easter Seals WI Family Camp for Veterans in Wisconsin Dells this past weekend.

However, the other volunteers and staff were not too keen on the idea, so I told him I’d work on it for the next Family Day for Veterans in the fall, lol.
Today is the last day of camp, and thankfully it will not be as long, or as strenuous. We will actually be taking a 2-hour boat ride in Wisconsin Dells, and after lunch it will be time to pack up and say goodbye. I must admit, I signed up thinking I would be working with the kids, and I have, but this weekend has been more fun than I expected. Getting to interact and do the activities with the families makes me feel more like a camper than volunteer, plus they provided food and board for the three days/two nights.
Unfortunately I cannot help out with the summer camps they have going on - those are run during the week instead of on the weekends, but I will make sure to keep an eye out for any future camp weekends Easter Seals Wisconsin offers. And I hope to be back in September to help with the next veteran’s camp. 

Me in front of the high ropes course.

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