Fall Camp or Family Camp or Church Camp; whatever you want to call it, has been an OBUUC tradition for many many years. When my family started attending Olympia Brown UU Church, family camp was in the Wisconsin Dells and when Kiera and Conner were 6 we had our first church camp experience. Thanks to Jerry Hershberger and whomever helped him organize the weekend, we had a delightful time. It was Conner’s first time shooting a bow, which has become one of his favorite activites and something he’s pretty good at. As a side note, I’m pretty good at shooting a bow too, something Conner is always surprised by.
For the past 5 years I’ve organized Fall Camp in East Troy, Wisconsin at the Camp Edwards YMCA camp on Lake Beulah. This camp is near and dear to my heart, since I spent my summers from age 11 through college at Sheltering Oaks Campground on Army Lake which is walking distance from Camp Edwards. Camp Edwards has a marsh walk, which is basically a wooden boardwalk that connects the camp to two islands located in Lake Beulah’s western marsh. The farthest island is reachable on foot from the woods around Army Lake, so as a teenager we’d walk to the island then sneak through Camp Edwards and walk the road back to Sheltering Oaks Campground.
Needless to say, the marsh walk has become one of my favorite activities when we’re at Camp Edwards. The large island the boardwalk connects to, is a huge glacial kettle formed when Wisconsin was covered in ice. The kids love climbing its steep sides to reach the top of the edge of the kettle, before running down into its depths. When the colors the trees are right, the canopy over the island can be a beautiful red, pink and orange marquee. This year, the canopy was mainly yellow, but still as delightful as ever.
The other actives we enjoy during the weekend are archery, rock wall climbing, high ropes course, gaga ball, night hike, camp fire songs, and the tunnel slide. The tunnel slide is a huge plastic sewer pipe affixed to the side of a hill. The kids (and daring adults) ride snow sleds down the inside of the pipe. Tony has even been known to ride down the steep hill a few times. Gaga bowl is a dodge ball like game played inside a wooden gated circle shaped area. Whenever we can’t find the kids, they’re always at the gaga ball pit. Beside the slide, it’s one of their favorite activities.
This year was the first year anyone in our group braved the high ropes course. This course is a personal challenge of will, endurance, and physicality. I am incredibly proud of Leah Binzel, a 7th grader, who conquered the challenge of the ropes course. The course is about 60 feet off the ground with swinging ropes and steps that ends in a zip line to the ground. She overcame her fear and did an amazing job. Chuck Binzel and Christy Domanoski were the other brave people who took on the course. When I asked Christy what the most difficult part of the course was, she told me it was letting herself drop off the platform on the zip line. So, after enduring the entire course, she found the last challenge the most terrifying!
Besides all the fun activities, the weekend of camp is one where we spend a huge amount of time with people we normally only spend a few hours a week with. Imagine 26 people living in a 8 bedroom, 5 bathroom house, 15 of these children, and you’ve got a picture of how fun and chaotic it can be. I must admit it’s always fun.
I would like to thank the Endowment Committee for granting us the money to allow the children to attend camp for free. I truly believe we would not have as successful a weekend if families had to pay for everyone in the family to attend. $408 for a family of four is a huge chunk of money to spend for a family weekend ($612 is nearly impossible for a family of 6). The generosity of our endowment fund is allowing our children and their parents to spend a weekend in a safe, loving community. Each of us who attends walks away with new friends and special memories. I wish all of you could experience it.