This was Ben’s first year at Cub Scout Day Camp, as he’ll be a Tiger Cub starting this summer and officially meet with his den in the fall. Since he’s so young, the camp requires an adult chaperone to go with him. I was that chaperone. I packed us all lunches, got Greg ready to go to Tot Lot (an indoor childcare thing for kids of volunteers), and put a few extras in the car for “just in case.” We got there half an hour early and the line was already halfway around the “camp.” I should explain: day camp is held on the campus of a junior college. We have a “camp site” in between two old dorms, with areas for each den roped off. Got through registration, changed his shirt, got him over to his den. There we saw something unusual: a whole big bunch of parents standing around. Now this isn’t exactly a drop-off camp; parents do have to walk the kids over and sign them in, but usually they leave right away. This was a crowd of parents. Not a good sign. The woman holding the clipboard was one of our neighbor’s; her daughter and David have been in the same class for a few years now. She has 6 kids; there was no way she was our den leader. The other parents weren’t either. So we stood around and talked about it for a while. After about 30 minutes I told the others to go on to work, I’d been a den leader before and was going to be there and I’d pass off leadership when the real den leader came. Eventually someone (who later I learned was the camp director) came round and said “OH, are you our missing den leader?” I said “NO! I’m a Tiger Cub’s adult chaperone. Where is our den leader?” He told me that 7 of the 14 adult volunteers for the camp had called in sick or dead and that we were one of the groups without a leader, at least for Monday & Wednesday. So I stepped up (what else was I going to do?) and was den leader for the week, which meant that I was going to need all those aforementioned “just in case” items: cooler, tablecloth, folding camp chair, permanent marker, sunscreen, ball.
The first day of camp we had 13 boys, one of which did not speak English. Most of the boys were awesome, only one who seemed not to listen and one that was actively troublemaking. I had another mom there that followed along with us, but she’d never been to camp before, so I got to explain a lot to her. Our first day things we chaotic. We didn’t have a map, just vague instructions to our various activities. Everything was running so late that morning that we all missed our first activities (ours would have been volleyball). Our second activity was all the way on the other side of campus, nearly 3/4 of a mile away, and we only had 10 minutes to get there. It was also about 99 degrees at that point. We got to learn archery, which was both fun and a bit scary. Then we ran all the way back across campus to decorate hats. After that was lunch. We went back to our dusty, dry camp area. I had brought a tablecloth, but it wasn’t big enough for everyone to sit on, so some kids just sat in the dirt. It was all right. After lunch we had water balloon launching, which did not last nearly long enough (not enough balloons, apparently), so we got to our next activity early enough that we were done with that, too, before that was even supposed to start, so we had an hour to kill. With nothing but a ball to entertain us. *sigh* We played Simon Says, Red Rover, Hot Potato, etc. I think that was the most tiring part of the day. Eventually we got done and got to go home. On the way out I was told that they were not going to make me pay for either a) Tot Lot or b) my t-shirt since I’d stepped up to be a “full volunteer.” I went home and collapsed. The kids watched TV all afternoon while I had the worst headache of my entire life (worse than any migraine even). I was shivering and throwing up. I finally looked it up online and figured out that I had heat stroke.
Day Two arrived and I was feeling better. I got there and found out that my non-English speaker had been transferred to another den, which was fine with me. He was a nice kid, but I’m sure it was frustrating to be lead by someone he couldn’t communicate with. I also found out that the Tuesday/Thursday person had told a friend that she wasn’t coming, so to be prepared to lead again. One of the other mom’s brought us a tarp for the week, which was lovely. We had an easy morning: obstacle course, making beaded snake lanyards, “hiking” around campus. I had another adult with me – one of my pack’s den leaders – so the day went really smoothly. We took turns being the head or end of the line and giving out info to the kids. Lunch happened, this time with considerably less grit consumed. After lunch we did some more stuff, but don’t ask me what; I really don’t remember. Went home and let the kids watch more TV. Too tired to move, still a bad headache, but at least I wasn’t throwing up.
Day Three the nice mom that had brought the tarp brought me a cold neckerchief to wear to keep the heat at bay. Chris, the den leader from my pack, came back again and we continued to split duties. I took care of all the paperwork & kept track of who had what & their crafts and he played with the kids in between our scheduled activities. It worked out really well. We got through BB guns, nutrition, and compass activities before the rain got to us. And boy did it get to us. We were drenched before we even made it over to our cover. We’d been told that morning that when it rained we should go to a certain covered parking lot and there’d be activities for us there. There was some kind of miscommunication with the campus, though, because the parking area was not left empty of cars for us, so we couldn’t stay there. Eventually we moved on to the gym, where we did a lot of races, saw a Tae Kwondo exhibition, and eventually watched a movie. We took turns going out to sit out in a covered area for lunch. It was chaotic and everyone was wet and cold. Came home, got dry, and rested. David was dropped off a little after 10pm from his camp.
Day Four we knew the day was going to be rained out, but we had to show up anyway because there was a “Rain or Shine” clause in the paperwork. I dropped Greg and David off at Tot Lot. Ben and I met the den & got to go under the covered parking area, but had to make way for handicapped parking, which was tough because most of the covered parking was handicapped. Only one person made a fuss about us being there, and she literally sprinted from her car to the building, so we did wonder why she had the permit (I understand all about invisible illnesses, but given that I, with my RA, limping, special shoes, & all don’t qualify, I’m wondering how someone healthy enough to sprint has one). Anyway, we played soccer amidst a torrent of water flowing through the lot, then made picture frames, built & launched rockets (sideways out the side of the garage), and watched the kids fencing. After lunch we went back to the gym and watched a completely inappropriate movie.
Day Five dawned nice and well, sunny, if not dry. We went back to our regular schedule, but it was Water Day, so we ended up wet anyway. The kids ran water relays all morning before lunch. After lunch they hiked over to the local middle school (a mile away – Nick, who has Friday afternoons off, and Chris hiked with the boys. I drove my van & the other two kids over), where a firetruck was supposed to be ready to spray them with water. It showed up about half an hour later, which was just as well, I guess, since that gave the kids newly applied sunscreen a chance to soak in. The kids had a blast in the water (sorry for the unintended pun). 🙂 And then it was time for the end of camp. We passed out cards with their earned belt loops on them, and waited for parents to arrive. That was that. Camp was over. Ben earned five belt loops over the course of camp: hiking, nutrition, soccer, bb’s, & archery.
A couple hours later our pack had a bicycle rodeo planned. Nick was in charge of it, so they went on over. Sadly, no one else showed up (we later learned that the other dens didn’t send out messages to their dens in a timely fashion). But our kids earned another belt loop: bicycle. 🙂