This summer’s Kids’ Camp on Callawassie Island was once again a success that drew “Best ever!” feedback. We meet as soon as camp concludes each year to ask ourselves and each other, “How can we make the campers’ experience even better?” or “What else can we share with them in the future?” No matter how much “success” we might perceive ourselves, we continue to look for ways to make Kids’ Camp even better for all who participate. This focus and effort bear fruit in rich rewards, not only for the campers themselves but our volunteer “member counselors” as well.
The cast of characters who make Kids’ Camp possible will tell you that no matter how much fun and fulfillment the kids themselves might experience, they experience the same feelings being involved as counselors as well. Pride is one of the first things they will mention when you ask what they get from taking part in Kids’ Camp as volunteers. The gratitude we feel for all we have here to enjoy on Callawassie, and the chance to share it, especially with our children and grandchildren, is a truly wonderful experience.
The fact that the impulse comes from within is demonstrated by the way Kids’ Camp began. It was entirely a member-organized initiative at first. People can’t tell you exactly when Kids’ Camp started. About 20 years ago Callawassie Island residents and members cooked up a plan to get their children and grandchildren better acquainted with their neighbors’ children by organizing an experience the kids could share in the summertime. The idea was that when the kids came back for Thanksgiving, they’d have friends with whom to enjoy their Island stay, in addition to their family.
How thoughtful is that? Wanting the kids to have Callawassie Island friends, so their family holidays would not be seen as extracting them from the world of their peers. Experienced parents point out that at a certain stage in a child’s life, they might see choosing between family and their increasingly important social life as a tougher choice than we might wish. Kids’ Camp started with the insight that having Callawassie Island friends would make that choice much less drastic.
Kids’ Camp participants look forward to seeing each other during holidays and other times of the year – some even visit each other when they are back home in Ohio, or Pennsylvania, New York, or California. At the same time that Kids’ Camp broadens their circle of enjoyment socially, it also has proven to greatly deepen their appreciation of Callawassie Island.
A look at the activities involved in Kids’ Camp shows some of the dimensions of this appreciation – and the program’s enrichment.
There is expert instruction in kayaking and professional lessons in golf and tennis – this might make it sound more like school than it feels. Children in four insightfully organized age groups find their own ways of enjoying these pass-times, means that they can carry on and grow with, as they continue to enjoy Callawassie Island in years to come.
Instruction is secondary to the experience kids are offered here. Kayaking, for example, each child is directly accompanied, on one of two kayak trips. Older campers are guided full-circle around Callawassie Island, while younger kids take a halfway trip, from our Callawassie Island Paddlers’ Dock to the River Club on the Colleton River.
Much more than solely activities or instruction, Kids’ Camp participants are exposed first-hand to the richness and beauty of life on Callawassie Island. During this year’s session, the Coastal Discovery Museum led them through an appreciation of the unique and sensitive ecology of the salt marsh. The Port Royal Foundation Maritime Center brought a baby alligator to help explain how we live in peace and harmony with nature in the Lowcountry, even with creatures that are practically prehistoric.
Previous enrichment sessions brought to Kids’ Camp in years past include the knowledge of our Callawassie Island owls, hawks, and eagles brought to our island by the Center for Birds of Prey, from the Francis Marion and Sumter National Forests that surround Awendaw, north of Charleston.
It’s not just the outdoor life that gets celebrated and illuminated at Kids’ Camp. This year kids experienced a cooking class led by the Executive Chef of Bluffton’s Downtown Deli, Ryan McCarthy. Although Ryan easily could have given fine-dining guidance, he offered instead, a session on shrimp and grits. Practical, local, everyday-useful, and based on the bounty of nature right here in the tidal waters of our beautiful, beloved South Carolina coast.
This year’s campers also had a fun tour of entrepreneurship and enterprise, too as they visited the Kazoo Factory in neighboring Beaufort, South Carolina, where historic folk musical instruments are made. Volunteers and counselors said that the trip back to Callawassie Island seemed just a little longer, with all the beginners’ kazoo music coming from the back seat.
The rewards of Kids’ Camp ripple out from kids to around 50 volunteers, to parents and grandparents, and, in a very real sense, to the Callawassie Island community as a whole. Even teenagers who have “aged out” of the Camp’s oldest group, 12 to 15, want to come back as counselors. Experienced “old hand” counselors like these 15, 16, and 17-year-olds are more than welcome, as this year’s crop of campers included around 30 children in the 6-and-7-year-old group.
Sounds like a whole lot of good getting done in just a four-day session, doesn’t it? That’s partly because the work goes on all year to make Camp Callawassie so successful.
When it comes to sharing our love of Callawassie Island with our children and grandchildren, we leave nothing to chance. Kids’ Camp was born from our desire to share the life and beauty of the island as we see it, and that those whom we share with know for themselves the connection we feel to our beautiful home. Not only the bond we have with Callawassie Island, but also with every member of our community.