The weather was cooperative and Camp Henry was poised to welcome the Camp Sunshine community for a Fall Festival on October 2. “Having all of the activities on main camp in close proximity was really nice. It was a community feel and allowed participants to go from activity to activity, from pickle ball to decorating pumpkins to texture scavenger hunts,” Brie Richardson, Program Director, says. “Camp Henry facilitated a beautiful experience that freed us to be present and focus on relationship building.”
Those relationships were the highlights for attendees. “It was like being with ‘my people’ again,” says Stacey VanLaan, a twenty-year volunteer. “I have missed that connection.”
“Physical presence and simply walking alongside someone can mean the world,” says Ben Metzger, a volunteer for six years, “whether playing pickleball, decorating a pumpkin, or trying a game of bag toss. Most of my time was spent alongside [camper] Mike. Our time together helped me to realize that it doesn't take any words to make a meaningful connection.
“My favorite moment of the day was after the first wagon ride returned and Mike came to join the campers and leaders who were not on the ride. Mike grabbed my hand and walked with me back to the parking lot to meet the wagon. When we got there, he pointed to the wagon and waved goodbye, as I had when I got him on the first wagon ride, before going back to join the group around the campfire. It was so sweet that Mike just wanted to be sure that I had the chance to experience the same joy on the ride that he had just a few moments before.”
“Singing our traditional camp songs was extremely meaningful,” Brie says. “The beat, the lyrics, the hand motions—they all bring back a nostalgia of camp that brought smiles that would not fade. During one of our singing sessions, I watched people doing the motions, and the complete joy on their faces was priceless. They were carefree, joy-filled, and present. This was by far my favorite time of the day.”
A volunteer since 2014, Kayla Backus reflects, “I have so many wonderful memories with my campers and with friends from Camp Henry and all of those memories just flood back every time I step foot on the Henry campus. I am so hopeful for an upcoming summer full of Camp Sunshine!”
The event also expressed potential: “We can do things year-round!” says Stacey. Kayla adds, “I think it would be awesome to offer this every year!” Ben says, “Day events like this could be incredibly beneficial to rekindle the spirit of Sunshine and have another chance to connect with campers beyond our traditional camp offering. This was a great chance to meet some more folks in the community: caretakers, potential new campers, or other people whom campers found special enough to bring to the event.”
Thanks to Jessica Lemay for photography of the event.