Monday, May 28, 2012

Strawberry Picking

At the beginning of May Mom decided to take the kids down to the Strawberry Patch to pick some berries for canning jelly. We've always gone to Westmoreland Berry Farm ever since I was a kid, and the farm is really cute. We went down and picked more than enough strawberries. It was Evan's first time to the berry farm, and he really loved eating the berries!

Rachel and Evan

Mom picking berries

The crew... a few from the family didn't come!


Mom and Ryan


Rachel and Evan are such pals. Other than Mom, she's probably his favorite.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Camp Rainbow 2012

Four years ago when I was a sophomore in high school one of my good friends told me about a volunteer opportunity with Fredericksburg Hospice Support Care called Camp Rainbow, and both her and I went. The camp basically offers a child who has lost a loved one a weekend to remember him or her and to have fun with other kids who have also lost loved ones. The little kids who attend the camp are all called "Little Buddies," and the volunteers are "Big Buddies." They pair us up, and then we play and talk together all weekend, and get to know other pairs of Big and Little Buddies.

This year I was paired up with a little girl named Savannah. She lost her Mom a few years ago, and we had an awesome time together at camp. We got there on Friday night, and went to choose our bunks in the cabin (we stayed at a site called Westview on the James). We played soccer outside for a bit, and then it was dinner time. The first night we also had a little Magic Show with a guy who comes down from Fredericksburg for the kids. It was cute and cheesy, but kept the little guys entertained. The first night we also always have a camp fire where all of the Little and Big buddies introduce each other and share why they are attending camp (who died in their families). The campfire is usually a very respectful and quiet time, which is nice. Then we walk back from the fire and pass out in the bunks :)

Savannah and me

My friend Megan and Me... she's the one who told me about Camp Rainbow and we've known each other since 6th grade

On Saturday morning the kids have the option to get up and go fishing, and every little buddy I've had always wants to go on both Saturday and Sunday morning. So Savannah and I got up bright and early Saturday, hit the showers, and headed to the lake. Saturday morning we didn't catch anything, which is always unfortunate, but we did have quite a few fish nibbling on our worms that we couldn't hook! We headed back from fishing, and went to breakfast. Saturday mornings the camp always has stations that involve various activities remembering the kids' loved ones or expressing themselves. This year they had a music station, skits station, outdoor games with a parachute, and arts and crafts. They are always fun, and then it was lunch time. After lunch we had three hours of free time/buddy time, which is always a favorite for the kids. The campsite has a lake with canoes and kayaks, a swimming area, and a zip line over the water called the Zip n' Dip. Savannah and I spent most of our time in the water :)

Early morning fishing--finally caught something!

The water always looks so pretty in the mornings

Rachel, Stephanie, and their little buddies at lunch on Saturday

This year Rachel and Gray's friend Stephanie also came as big buddies so it was a lot of fun having them there, too. Rachel and I hung out by the water with our buddies and got to do some canoeing!

After free time we did some team activities with the staff at the campsite, and then met up for dinner. After dinner, we had a little bit of free time still, and then headed to another camp fire for the night. This campfire is another time for anyone to share who hadn't yet, or for anyone to share any experiences they had had over the last few hours. After everyone shares, we also enjoy some S'mores :) By this point, all the kids are often really tired, so bed time Saturday night is pretty easy!

Second Campfire

Sunday is the last day of Camp Rainbow, and Savannah and I started off by going fishing. We had a great time, and actually caught two fish this time around. We headed off for breakfast, and after that was the camp's final group activity: Balloon Ceremony. Every kid chooses a balloon and writes a message on it for his or her loved one, and then we all go outside and send them up into the sky at the same time. The kids get some more time to play with each other and hang around before we go pack up the cabins and wait for all the parents and families to arrive around noon. When the parents arrived, the kids performed their skits from the day before, and then the Big and Little buddies each lunch with their families together and talk about the weekend. The family picnic is always really nice and its always fun to meet the families of the kids you've been hanging out with all weekend. This year, Savannah's grandparents came to the picnic and they were very nice and we had a great time. After lunch, camp is over and we swap goodbyes with each other as we all head out.

Lake in the early morning

Balloon Ceremony. It's always fun to watch those balloons soar into the air.

I've been a big buddy at Camp Rainbow for three years now, and each time has been such a great experience. I really love volunteering with such a great camp, and I'll keep doing it for as long as I can. The kids that attend camp really are so genuine and sweet, and I love spending a weekend with them in the woods just having a great time. Fortunately, I have never lost anyone close to me in my life so far, and I admire the little kids that have and how they've been able to cope with their own loses. As part of the camp, kids are reminded that they are not the only children to have lost important people in their lives, and I hear about many of the loses during the weekend. Kids have lost brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles, best friends, parents, grandparents, and more, and volunteering at Camp Rainbow is always a humbling experience.