Camp St Francis 2015 – Diary by Dave O’Hara

PART 1 - PREPARATION TIME

Day 1 - 24/06/2015

Aptos

It’s been a long time coming! Finally we are here at camp. It’s something I have been looking forward to since I arrived here in the States last August, and even though it has been the first day, it hasn’t disappointed! We were up early this morning and thankfully Bro Al and some others had collected a lot of our gear earlier. We arrived at around 2.30 and settled down in a free cabin as there is a camp from the parish of St Peter and Paul in San Fran. Camp Francis is located in the North of California at Aptos near Watsonville. We joined that group for dinner in the evening and did some introductory games to get to know who we will be working with for the next month! Everyone seems nice so far and the atmosphere is really great here, as well as been one of the most beautiful locations one could imagine! We have played a few games that we might be able to use during camp and to help to get to know each other as a team, time for a bit of rest!

Day 2 - 25/06/2015

Aptos

Up bright and early today for mass and prayer. We had breakfast with the camp from St Peter and Paul’s in San Fran, bacon and eggs, it was great! They left by midday. We however, went to the activity centre to get a sample of what commercials are like. They are basically skits about the activities of the day to inform and entice the kids. So we were given a run through of what we would be doing for the day and we didn’t have a choice! We started with scenarios of what could happen with the kids that we had to act out and come up with solutions for. This was great fun but very informative also. By the time we were finished the other camp group had left so we were able to move into our cabins. I finally had time to start putting the squid cabin together! After lunch we went over safe environment etc and then had more time to decorate. We were put into pairs for prepping for the evening activity. I got to pair with Anthony, a former Bosco Tech student who I know pretty well. We had to come up with and lead a camp cheer. After a few games in the evening we went down to the beach for our first campfire, there will be one every Thursday. We started by having roasted marshmallows and smores, some American concoction with chocolate added to the marshmallow. We then got into the cheers and I’m totally new to them so it was a good start and the one I had to do with Anthony went pretty well. Don’t think I’ll ever ever like them though! Bro Al had myself and a few others get up and make fools of ourselves for one of his games too. We ended with a prayer service. It was great to be on the beach, in the dark with the sound of the waves crashing, we are very lucky. We were also very tired at this stage and headed to bed pretty much straight away when we got up to the cabins.

Day 3 - 26/06/2015

Aptos

Was pretty tired getting up today. Didn’t sleep well last night but I’ll get over it. We got time to prep our cabins in the morning after prayers and breakfast. We went over some scenarios of the dinner from hell and while being a great laugh acting it all out, we learned a lot from it.  The decorating is getting there now and the cabin is looking the job. We did a bit more formal work by learning about the Salesian way of working with campers for awhile by means of a presentation. We had to prepare as a cabin for our first talent show, which will happen every Friday. We decided to do a skit on what we have learned so far in camp prep, like safe environment and fire drills. It went down very well, as did all the acts. I do think that Fr Bill stole the show however, as one of the judges, he is very quick witted. We finished our day with a nice Táize adoration.  Totally wrecked from laughing and the day so looking forward to a good nights sleep!

Day 4 - 27/06/2015

Aptos

Slept well last night so was ready to go this morning. After morning prayers we had a hearty breakfast and straight afterwards we got into doing commercials for the various activities that will be happening each day. It was good fun and we will hopefully make the activities appealing for the kids when the time comes. Br Al gave us a letter from a camper parent written a few years ago, we got time to reflect on it and it really brought home just how big a responsibility we have over the next few weeks. We then got time to finish off our work on our cabins until lunch. The Squid cabin is coming together thanks to the help of the cabin counsellors and we are really happy with how it is turning out. It was a change of clothes after lunch for a trial run of crazy Wednesday. We started with an obstacle course which was surprisingly tough and then we went into a Spartan games competition. The old GAA skills came in handy here and it was really enjoyable. The final part of the crazy Wednesday trial was a beach war with water balloons and flour balloons. It was very interesting and I can only imagine how it is going to tune out with the kids involved! After being at the beach, it was the perfect time for our first room inspection and thankfully the counsellors in my cabin knew the drill and it went well. This was followed commercials by mass and we were commissioned with our shirts as camp staff at this time. It was a great mass and put things into perspective for me. Dinner took place after mass and then we prepared for night activities. There were a lot of props etc to make and a lot of effort goes into all of this, it really is a proper set up, the kids will be amazed when they see it. Ste led the prayer service tonight and it was great as well as Sean’s goodnight. Pretty tired but raring to go for tomorrow, I especially cannot wait to see some of the kids I have been working with in the club at East LA this year.

Day 5 - 28/06/2015

And so we have campers!! Its been a hectic day as usual. After morning prayers and breakfast, a group of us traveled to Sunday mass in one parish while another cohort of us travelled to another parish. We were given a warm welcome and hopefully any kids who haven’t signed up for camp will now do so. Once back, we had a quick meeting, made sure our dorms were clean and prepared to welcome our campers.  We got a much bigger turn out than expected, with the older kids cabin even overfull! I got a few camp veterans in my cabin but all of the lads are great. The kids I know from the club in LA arrived and they are integrating very well. After meeting as a camp as a whole and introducing the staff team, we got to get to know each other a little as individual cabins. The squid cabin came up with their own ‘squid code’, I outlined what was expected off them and asked them what they expected from camp. The camp theme for the week, ‘alien invasion’, started with a skit and then after our first goodnight we had time for our first cabin ritual. Anthony organised and led a trust game with the campers, it went really well and we were back in our cabin with lights out early in preparation for our first full day tomorrow!