Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A camp for kids, by kids

Lunch at Camp Happy Days is at 11, followed by playdough time and, finally, parent pickup. It's been a full morning, but the preschool-age campers are going strong. The staff, well, not so much.

“It's really, really fun,” says Lucinda Bond, 10, who runs the camp. “But I'm really tired."

Says 7-year-old brother Reid: “You go back and forth, back and forth. It can really make you dizzy.”

Lucinda and Reid, along with 11-year-old brother Brett, are hosting Camp Happy Days each morning this week for six younger children in their Myers Park neighborhood. There have been crafts and songs and games for the campers, well worth the $50 fee per child – 10 percent of which the staff decided to give to charity. Then they learned a little more about giving.

The camp is Lucinda's idea. She wanted to do it one summer ago, but her mother worried that all the duties would fall to mom. Lucinda has since proved she can manage the responsibility: Each day of Camp Happy Days has a theme (Tuesday was Super Hero Dress Up Day) and a schedule of activities. Each child brings home a printed form that in forms parents which songs they sang that day, which books they read and “other things you should know.”

Lucinda's organizational skills are complemented nicely by Brett, whose
imaginative game-playing has delighted the boy-heavy clientele. Reid (pictured with Lucinda - in the hat - and camper Julia Clardy) is the dutiful helper, ready to pitch in wherever needed.

And mom, Melissa? She's the diaper changer. (Says Reid: “It was horrible yesterday because mom was changing the diapers in my room. I had a talk with her about that.”) Melissa is also camp advisor – “I tell them this is not school, it's fun.” She moderates any in-staff barking. She makes sure her workers understand larger concepts, such as having to use some of your income to pay for crafts and other supplies.

Mostly, mom watches her kids learn. The children decided early on that they would donate 10 percent to a charity, which fit the tithing lessons their parents were trying to teach. Then, last month, a cousin sent them an email about the Council for Children's Rights, a non-profit advocacy and legal services organization.

The Bonds visited the Charlotte agency with their father, talked to officials, heard about the children they serve. “I learned what they do is really important,” said Brett, who had a preschool friend with a disability. “I imagined that if I were in his situation, would I want someone helping me?”

They decided to give $100 of the $250 they cleared for the week, and their mother thinks that because that money is hard-earned, donating it might be even more rewarding. Says Lucinda: “My brothers – we were talking about the money we were going to get. I think even if it's only a dollar, it's OK. I think it's good to be giving it away.”

For now, however, there is work to do. Moms are arriving and kazoos are honking and playdough is strewn across the table, waiting to be picked up. “How'd it go?” one mom asks Reid.

“They did really good,' he says.

Yes, they did.


(photo by Observer photographer Diedra Laird)


Amy K said...

These kids set a great example! What self-confidence and generosity!