By Stan Stewart
Thirty years ago, I took a solemn vow. I have been true to it ever since.
The vow was to never, ever participate in a children’s or youth activity which involves sleeping over, or even occasional ‘sleep overs’. Prior to my making the vow, I was expected to participate in a number of such events several times a year.
Throughout my life, I have worked with children and youth. Many clubs and activities required occasional or regular ‘sleep-overs’. In my experience these have never been ‘sleep overs’. They are in fact ‘wake overs’. I have dreadful memories of small boys giggling in the early hours of the morning telling ghost stories or exchanging revolting episodes involving green slime or bodily functions etc. These episodes set me off and flipped me to the dark side. At times I have become a threatening and vindictive maniac.
‘Day Camp’ rescued me. It meant I could continue to work with children and youth events which I loved without the threat of my night time metamorphosis.
Thirty years ago a youth leader David Chisholm and Pauline (my wife and the editor of The Mercury Bay Informer), introduced me to the concept of Day Camp. It was a wonderful concept. From 9am to 4.00pm (approximately) children and teens enter a wonderful adventure in the outdoors, on a farm or a large bush area. There is an indoor component – tents usually - sometimes a farm shed. But come the mid to late afternoon, they depart for their homes and they sleep in their own beds - and so do the leaders - and that includes me. Day Camp is the best idea for a children and teens holiday activity that I have ever encountered.
I was involved in one or more ‘Day Camps’ every year for 20 years. One of the roles I played was to be a bizarre character I invented, the Reverend Doctor Rock. With a long gown, a safari style, pith helmet and a fake nose, Dr Rock interrupted every morning programme with some rowdy nonsense and his indefatigable partner, Nurse Bio-degradable. He was always opposed by some despicable characters who were hell-bent on destroying the environment. He was obviously attracted to Aunty Pauline. I even wrote a song, “Who can save our luverly bush’ which was rowdily sung by thousands of day campers of my era.
Years ago, a man who was a business executive, confronted me on the final afternoon of a Day Camp. He said, “I am mad at you.” Taken back, I enquired why? He replied, “Last school holidays, I travelled with my children to St Moritz in Switzerland for a skiing holiday. Now they tell me that they like your Day Camp more than skiing in Switzerland. How is that?” Before I could reply, he left.
I remember the first Day Camp we organized in Whitianga. Bright faced children and teens boisterously queued for the bus at St Andrews By The Sea Church. We had lots of helpers, 90% of whom we did not know. The location was the best venue we had ever had for a Day Camp. Of course, with so many aspects unknown to us, we worried. Would these rowdy Whitianga country kids like the Day Camp activities? Would the teen leaders really get with the programme? Would the electives and elective leaders achieve an acceptable outcome? We need not have worried. It was a terrific Day Camp.
Since then, Day Camp Mercury Bay has gone from strength to strength. Once registrations are open, I understand that the 300 spaces are filled in a few days. Terrific!!
Postscript: I have spent the last 10 months living in Brisbane where I was caring for my paralysed son who was hospitalized (three different hospitals) because of unexplained, still un- diagnosed paralysis. Three weeks ago, he was discharged from hospital. He has recovered the use of the top half of his body but his lower body remains paralysed, but not as severely as it was. He still cannot stand. We live in hope, as he does. His name is Walker.
Now he lives in our Brisbane apartment with his wife and our grandson. We all felt it was time for me to return to New Zealand and join Pauline in Mercury Bay.
One thing I have not written about is the effect on me of living for ten months with a fourteen-year-old boy( my grandson). Much of this time there were just the two of us. It has made me aware of the viciousness of teen and pre-teen bullying. The talk about sexuality and sexual orientation is way beyond anything I knew – even my recent adult knowledge. But for me, worse still, is the constant harping on the theme of death and suicide. I experienced the values of Day Camp, ( then a 4 day event) - acceptance of others including those who are different to me, sharing, positivity and working together are great medicine for the sickness that pervades the current world, our world as adults and often the world of our children and teens.
Google Mercury Bay Day Camp. Browse the pics of past years and the two videos.
Enrol your grandchildren or children.
Address for communications -
Caption: The Mercury Bay Day Camp: This wonderful Outdoor Adventure Camp is created for children 6 to 13 years and is supported by Local Churches, the Community, 80 Teen Helpers and as many Adult Helpers who are available for one or three days. It is Overseen by The Mercury Bay Community Support Trust.