Camp gives summer fun to children Westminster: Neighborhood churches helped get program started to provide activities for youngsters who would otherwise have little to do.

August 23, 1998|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

For the children of one Westminster neighborhood, a low-income, working-class community, summer could have meant aimless hours roaming city streets or hot, humid days shut indoors while their parents worked.

Instead, every morning, Camp Food and Fun was just a short walk from their front doors at Bishop Garth Apartments, thanks to a $1,500 grant from the United Way of Central Maryland and donations from area churches.

"We kept kids occupied all summer, and they had a lot of fun," said Krystal Swan, a 13-year-old volunteer counselor. "Without us, they would have stayed inside all the time or ran around on the streets where they would not be safe. Camp gave them breakfast, lunch and something fun to do."

The grant paid for a camp director, supplies and meals, though area restaurants frequently donated the children's favorite pizza and burgers.

"These are children of working parents, who had little or no activities and not much direction in the summer," said the Rev. David Highfield, pastor of Westminster United Methodist Church. "We wanted to get involved in this area and take our ministry to those children rather than wait for them to come to us."

Camp opened the end of June for children ages 5 to 13. The older children, such as Krystal, served as junior counselors and earned community service hours toward their high-school graduation requirement.

Kanisha Frisby, 13, has become quite the artisan. She directed the children's final project: making a necklace of twine and cereal. She frequently had to remind her charges to stop eating the materials. Karl Layer, 6, made his piece into a headband, because "boys don't wear necklaces," he said.

This camp had few amenities and no transportation, but anyone who walked in was welcome.

"They were all so good," said director Karen Stevens. "We talked about rules right away, and there were no problems."

A few picnic tables clustered on a grassy lot near the Bishop Garth apartments served as the crafts and dining area. The campers could usually be heard singing while they worked.

"We had baseball and fun stuff," said Ashley Chase, 10. "I came every day."

A towering tree gave shade and the perfect spot for story time. A sprinkler -- dubbed Crazy Daisy -- substituted for a swimming pool. "Drip, drip, drop" was a popular game, with the loser getting a cup of water poured over his or her head.

For sports equipment, campers had jump ropes and enough bats and balls for a quick game of baseball every day. Travis Woodyard, 12, racked up 40 community service hours helping younger children hone baseball skills. Campers all agreed that Travis owned first base.

On the last day, there was a field trip to a farm near Silver Run. The children fed animals, grinned for a picture in a field of tall corn and took a tractor ride. Their host teasingly offered them a taste of the dark-yellow field corn, grown for animal feed.

"I didn't like it," said Amber. "It's too chewy, and it's not sweet."

But the children savored freshly picked green beans.

"Much better than the ones in cans," said Joey Miller, 7.

The farmer they called Dr. Doolitte introduced them to a rare Chinese pheasant and Pearl, a huge, gentle Newfoundland dog that traipsed after them all day. They raced to a pasture and climbed on the fence to feed apples to Francesca the burro and Camillus, reportedly the tallest horse in Carroll County.

"The horse sneezed on me," said Kassi Joyce, 8.

Five-year-old Megan Rohrbaugh was determined to give Camillus an apple, but needed a counselor's help to reach the horse's mouth. She showed no fear as the towering horse nuzzled her hand and chomped on the treat.

"That goose is talking to me," said Amber Seymour, 7, as she approached a yard full of fowl.

"Is quacking talking?" asked Travis Green, 5.

The children tossed feed to pigeons and searched a darkened chicken coop for eggs. Tommy Stultz, 7, found a delicate brown egg, wrapped it in a paper towel and hoped it would survive the ride home. He planned to keep it as a farm souvenir.

"Do you think there is a bird inside of it?" asked Darnae Ambush, 10.

Tasha Woodyard, 3, delegated the egg duty to her mother, who came on the trip. Cindy Woodyard said the camp should be called "Godsend."

"My kids had nothing else to do this summer," she said. "I knew where they were every morning."

Travis had his first encounter with a chicken, holding the speckled bird firmly with both hands. "It feels really soft, and I think it's talking," he said.

Kristi Joyce, 10, found a kitten and planned to ask the farmer if she could keep it.

The campers huddled on a flatbed trailer and cheered at each bump in the road as a tractor drove them to a lush meadow.

Members of the Silver Run Lions Club barbecued hot dogs and filled campers' plates with chips and chilled watermelon. Around a campfire, the children toasted marshmallows and s'mores.

Stevens would like Camp Food and Fun to become an annual event. She has asked the children to continue playing together. The baseball equipment has been left with the apartment manager in case the campers want a game after school.

Pub Date: 8/23/98

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