Barbara Van Every, center, works out Tuesday in an exercise class at Shaeffer’s Chapel with granddaughters Brianna Glover, 10, left, and Ava Glover, 8. While at “Camp Gama,” Barbara’s grandchildren also learn about fishing, cooking and sewing, among other activities. The girls’ parents are Brian and Natalie Glover of Baton Rouge, La. Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff
Alex Morabito, 7, gets kayaking pointers from granddad Charles Swoope on Tibbee Creek this summer while at Camp G&G (Gran and Grandpa) in Columbus. Alex is the son of Steve and Mary Morabito of Anthem, Arizona.
Photo by: Courtesy photo
Karen Overstreet and her grandchildren apply Camp Chaos logos to T-shirts earlier this month. From left are 9-year-old Owen Overstreet, the daughter of Wade Overstreet of Jackson, grandmother and Camp Chaos director Karen, 5-year-old Paxton Overstreet and Camp Overstreet, 8. Paxton and Camp are the sons of Cane and Katey Overstreet of Starkville.
Photo by: Courtesy photo
Lucy Lenore Jones, left, daughter of Scott and Maggie Jones of Jackson, and Maggie Mills, daughter of Matt and Janie Mills of Madison, wear their Camp Mayhew T-shirts. Bess Swedenburg and her husband, Billy, have “hosted” Camp Mayhew for more than 20 years.
Photo by: Courtesy photo
July 19, 2014 10:46:53 PM
Bess Swedenburg's Camp Mayhew has been convening for more than 20 years, proving that the latest Grandma Camp craze is not all that new. This summer, four Lowndes County grandmas created personalized camps for their visiting grandchildren.
Bess has seven grandchildren who have been through Camp Mayhew and reports, "It is loads of fun!" Camp activities include learning to cook pound cakes along with a few canning projects, a visit to the railroad for placing pennies and waiting for the train to flatten the pennies, and usually a litter of kittens provides some fun, as well as riding the golf cart round and round.
Bess' neighbor, Belle Ables, allows the campers to visit her swimming pool. The kids refer to the pool as the "Mayhew Country Club." Some days busy little fingers build projects with Connects Toys, finger paint, or string beads for bracelets or necklaces. Like some of the other Grandma Camps, this year's craft project included teaming up with neighbor Shirley Swoope's Camp G & G (Gran and Grandpa) for T-shirt making. Past years always included visits with senior friends, where campers picked blueberries with Mrs. Amy Stepp or shared teacakes and cookies with Mrs. Frances Tumberlinson.
"Camp Mayhew allows the children to enjoy the open spaces and the freedom of being in a small community like Mayhew," says Bess.
Shirley and Charles Swoope are both heavily into the camp activities including kayaking, baseball practice, archery, marksmanship, tractor driving, horseback riding, exploring nature, riding the three-wheeler, fishing and learning football techniques. Charles, being a former football standout at East Mississippi Junior College under the legendary Coach Bull Sullivan, is more than qualified to prepare 7-year-old Alex for an athletic future.
Shirley kicks in on crafts, swimming, and serves as a short order cook. Every night Shirley and Alex pile up in the bed and take turns flipping pages while reading the "Boxcar Kids." Since Alex returned to his Arizona home Shirley is considering getting her own set of the series to finish where she and Alex left off.
Shirley's strongest advice for those considering Grandma Camp is: "For all outdoor activities saturate the child with bug repellent, as city kids seem to be a delicacy as far as chiggers and mosquitoes are concerned."
Barbara Van Every operates Camp Gama. (She is affectionately called Gama by her 14 grandchildren.) Camp Gama this month includes teaching granddaughters Brianna and Ava to sew. Sewing is an activity that Barbara enjoyed with her mother, and she hopes to inspire the same love of companion sewing with her granddaughters. Last year the girls made kitchen aprons; this year they are making their own book bags and, if time allows, some simple skirts.
Camp also includes cooking lessons. The campers record recipes on cards so they can keep them and perhaps later impress their parents with their culinary abilities.
Physical activities include joining Gama's exercise class at Shaeffer's Chapel, as well as swimming and riding scooters at the Riverwalk or on the campus of Mississippi State University. This year Gama taught the girls to drive the farm jeep across the pasture by themselves. To that she says, "Yikes! Oh well, they have a whole pasture to practice in."
The nightly activities have been the best, says Barbara: " ... the board games and then devotions and prayer together before bed, then the morning quiet time on the porch, which sometimes is not so quiet -- it's a time to discuss treasures from God's word."
Brianna and Ava enjoy their Gama taking them fishing, though that's not Gama's favorite part. "I do like for us to feed the fish and watch the bream hit the water," she says.
With so many grandchildren, Barbara has been running Camp Gama for most of the summer. The next task is to choose a camp logo and think about T-shirts.
Camp Chaos is held annually at the home of Karen and Raymond Overstreet, known as Prairie Sunset Farm. Karen confesses, "This year I felt so unprepared, but God provided ideas, unexpected resources and energy I did not know I had."
The Overstreets have five grandchildren, but only children over age 3 are allowed, which excluded 2-year-old Sam Overstreet, who hopes to attend next year.
Camp Chaos is designed around a Biblical theme, "Watch, Listen, Walk with God," and operates much like a private Vacation Bible School. The morning begins with songs, motions and movement to illustrate a Bible story. Karen created a costume closet from which the children can chose outfits to act out the story. One year they acted out the story of Moses. The kids floated an American Doll in a basket in the backyard pond. Another year the children did the parable of the Good Samaritan, only everyone wanted to be the bandit and beat up the poor Samaritan. For the story of Moses and the Israelite slave, one of the children cried, not wanting to be a slave. Some stories work out better than others.
After a mission trip to Africa, Karen set up an African marketplace where the kids could come and buy things from Africa with African money. Later, the campers took an overnight trip to the Birmingham zoo to visit the African animal exhibit.
"One of the favorite camp activities is Popa's Treasure Hunt," says Karen. "Raymond tells an intriguing story about some buried treasure or fictitious historical event in which people had left an unsolved mystery which the children will solve. It usually involves their following a map or series of markers that lead to an eventual discovery of a treasure."
Karen concludes, "I love the memories being made, the opportunity for the kids to pull away from 'screens' of any kind to enjoy nature and God's provision. As exhausted as I am when taps are played, I love seeing them crawl into the bunk beds together, giggling, whispering, looking forward to the next day's activities, kissing and hugging with goodnight wishes. Reminds me of the Walton's ... 'Good night, Mimi. Good night, Popa. Good night, Reese. Good night, Owen ... '"
There are camps, and then there are camps. Surely Grandma (and Grandpa) camps must be among the very best.
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.