Growing up on camp

When you take on a new job it’s not just about you.  Your family comes along for the ride too, and with three boys aged between 11 and 6 the next chapter of life is one that will shape them significantly.  And what a wonderful world they’ve entered – to grow up in and around camping and all it has to offer.

An amazing night for kids

We’ve just waved goodbye to the latest Mapleton Adventure Camp and we really hope that each child takes away with them amazing memories of fun, mayhem and friendship.

One of the stand-outs of the September MAC is Carnival night.  This is the first September MAC I’ve been involved with, and I have to confess I was impressed with its scale and impact.  I now understand why the QCCC staff (and their kids) eagerly awaits each MAC, and why Carnival night is an event on the calendar not to be missed.

Through the year hard-working volunteers comb through stores in Brisbane taking hold of a massive range of plastic toys, food nearing its use-by-date and anything else that might please a child’s heart.

The campers come into Kirkwood Hall that has as its centerpiece a giant jumping castle, a visual centre piece that sets the carnival atmosphere.  Each child is given a show bag stacked with goodies and a bag of plastic tokens.

Around the room is a wide range of challenge games, each costing a token, but paying out high rewards (in the form of more tokens) for success.  Think of the stable of carnival type games and you’ll get the idea – throwing bags at targets, knocking down cans, putting ping-pong balls in clown’s mouth, bashing the rat, picking out ducks from water containers, sock wrestling and throwing hoops over prizes.

The jumping castle is the visual centrepiece of a big night.

Half an hour after the night opens, the shops open.  One sells off candy floss, popcorn and slushies for one plastic token.  The other shop had trestle tables groaning under the weight of prizes available for purchase with plastic tokens.  With tokens freely available and prizes plentiful, each child leaves the arena at the end of the night laboring under the weight of their purchases.

The carnival atmosphere is completed with clowns, a team of face-painters and the jumping castle.  Three hours of frenzied childhood bliss.

Today I was caught up on a story of the reaction of one of the MAC campers to Carnival night.  Upon walking into the arena it took several minutes for their leader to assure the child there was no real cost for the night.  That all it took was to have fun, collect tokens on the way and use them to buy up whatever took their fancy at the prize shop.

Emotionally overwhelmed this child from a situation on the downside of advantage threw himself heartily into the gathering of tokens and proceeded to specifically buy up prizes and good that he knew would make a difference for his mother and siblings.  Selflessly he bought nothing for himself (until the situation was realized and he was slipped extra tokens).  For him it was a red-letter night – an opportunity to bless his family in a wholly unexpected way.

Part of Carnival night is about conveying generosity to our campers – giving them an amazing night that for some is the highlight of their year.  But this boy taught us all that generosity can beget extravagant generosity.

I can’t wait for next year (and neither can the boys).

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