Wednesday, July 8, 2015

A Different Kind of Camp

Yesterday my daughter and I visited the Talbott Springs Pool for the first time this summer. It truly is a little-known gem in the CA Pool system. In recent years we've finally gotten much needed updates like a slide, a water feature in the baby pool, and three new picnic tables with umbrellas. I love this pool and I'd like to see more people using it. Consider yourself invited.

As we were swimming a group of young people came in, accompanied by several adults wearing matching t-shirts labeled "role models". As the kids went to the changing rooms, the adults set up shop at one of the aforementioned picnic tables, which was near to where we were sitting.

This is where my busybody energies kicked in. I was curious. Where were they from? And as the kids came out, ready to swim, I noticed something else. They were really great kids. And their counsellors spoke to them kindly, and with respect. I have extremely high standards for how adults treat kids in school/camp settings, and I was truly impressed.

As we left, I asked a pool employee what camp they were from.

"They're from Camp Make a Difference," he said. "I don't think I'd like it if my mom had signed me up. They have to volunteer and plant trees and stuff."

On the way home my daughter basically agreed. Her experience with school based public service requirements has left her with a feeling the volunteering is another thing that school makes you do, like gym class or standardized testing. I suggested to her that there were probably kids who had a natural interest in volunteering and helping others in the same way that she loves music and theatre. She allowed as how that might be true.

When I got home I started doing some research. Here's the CA page describing Camp Make a Difference. It's a joint venture with The Volunteer Center serving Howard County. The Camp uses the Youth and Teen Center at the Barn in Oakland Mills as its home base, and the campers divide their time each day between volunteering and recreational activities.

I asked my friend Mickey Gomez, formerly director or The Volunteer Center, about the camp.

It attracts great staff and campers. I want to say it's in its 9th year? The campers, staff and host sites are all amazing. Pool days tend to be highlights. You can imagine how hot it gets volunteering on a day like today at an outside site.

She directed me to a short video about the camp made by Dave and Ilana Bitner of HoCoMoJo. (And Pixel Workshop.) It really gives a good feel of what the camp is all about. The words of the campers themselves are fascinating. One boy says,

"I want to make a difference in the world, little by little..."

Camp Make a Difference is offered for four one-week sessions to students grades 6-9. I didn't really know much about it until yesterday. Just catching a glimpse of of the awesome kids and staff made me want to learn more.





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