By: Doug Ulaszek
The weekend before last, we welcomed over 30 middle school students for the annual Camp Gray Middle School Retreat. Great fun was had by all, especially the SaLT (Servant Leadership Team) Missionaries here at Camp. Many of those here this weekend are summer camp veterans, but a few had come to Camp for the first time. It was exciting to see so many former campers (I think I counted at least 10 campers from my past cabin groups!) and to meet so many new people.
Of all the crazy-fun activities from the weekend, one activity stands out to me in particular: The Winter Cassidy Games (queue a capella Olympic theme music…). I had the esteemed privilege of planning the games, a snow-themed variation of the newest nightly program during summer camp, the Cassidy Games. And while the Winter Games were packed into one afternoon instead of a whole week, excitement and fun abounded.
Just like during the summer version, the Winter Cassidy Games pitted the Red Tribe versus the Blue Tribe, each led by a chief from among the counselors. The chiefs were Colleen Dunn and Darleen Kittrick, whose spirited sports-related rivalry goes all the way back to their days at Marywood University. And just like the Summer Games, both chiefs were unaware of their roles until it was announced to all on Friday evening (Sidebar: I must admit, the look of shock on their faces was one of my favorite parts of the Winter Games J). Unlike summer, however, these chiefs had no idea what lay in store for them the next day.
The Winter Games began with a chilling (ding!) game of Ice Panda Ball, named for the layer of ice that has covered the floor of the Panda Ball pit this winter (don’t worry folks, we sanded and salted first!). The Red Tribe took the first event, giving them the advantage moving forward, an important edge to have in the culminating (CULMINATION!) obstacle course.
From the Panda Pit, the tribes made their way to the pool fence, which is known during the summer as the “slip-and-slide hill.” The next event found campers taking turns sledding down the hill while trying to catch tennis balls thrown by his or her teammates. At the same time, the opposing team would be throwing dodgeballs at the sledders, trying to distract them from catching the tennis balls. Teams then switched roles, and the team with the most points after 4 minutes won. Red again took the victory, giving them a 15 second head start in the final event – the obstacle course.
At this point in the games, the Red Tribe was winning in convincing fashion, but Blue refused to give up. They knew from experience how even a 15 second head start was unsafe heading into the obstacle course. Leads greater than 15 seconds had been overcome before, and that was exactly what they planned to do.
The culminating (CULMINATION) obstacle courses started with each team pulling a Camp Gray counselor (Josh Hunstiger and Emilio Alvarez) on a sled across the tennis court using a rope. Josh and Emilio could surely tell you about the adrenaline of having 18 middle schoolers pull you as fast as they can on a sled. From there, an empty bucket was placed in a ring of cones about 12 feet in diameter. Each tribe had to fill the bucket with snow without crossing inside the cones. Once full, a different bucket was given to each Chief. Inside the bucket was a key frozen in ice. The Chiefs then snow-shoed across the Upper Campfire field, where a hammer awaited them. Once she had her key free of the ice, the Chief would run to the sledding hill, unlock a sled chained to a tree, and sled down the hill. The first Chief to get to the bottom of the hill would win.
Red took advantage of their head start, and in no time had their bucket full of snow. Chief Colleen then took off in her snow shoes toward the hammer. Blue, which started far behind, was now closing in. Just as Colleen freed her key, Blue Chief Darleen was approaching her hammer. Almost immediately, Darleen freed her key and was on Colleen’s heels heading to the sledding hill. This was, however, where the one shortcoming of the Winter Games showed itself: there was no snow on the hill!
Despite the dry slopes, each Chief soldiered on, trying to sled down the hill on dead grass. Starting slowly, they quickly picked up steam, bringing the race to an exciting finish. Red Chief Colleen made it down first, cementing the victory for the Red Tribe. Even though they finished second, the Blue Tribe held their heads high, knowing that they had given everything they had to the competition. One thing each tribe could agree on, though, was that it was mighty cold outside, and all headed up to Helen Hall to warm up by the fire with a mug of hot cocoa.
As for me, I had a blast with the Winter Cassidy Games. The excitement and thrills, though smaller scale than the Summer Games, made my love of summer camp all the more present. Knowing that in 4 short months the Cassidy flags will rise on Lake Jake’s dock once more gives me chills. But until then, I have the Winter Cassidy Games to keep me satisfied! (Queue Olympic theme…)