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Published June 06, 2009, 12:00 AM

Fun a Camp ReCreation

RICHARDTON — Guitar music and melodies of “Kum ba yah, My Lord” filtered through the hallways of Richardton-Taylor High School on Wednesday. Classrooms were coverted into “dorms,” while campers worked on crafts in another room.

By: Linda Sailer, The Dickinson Press

RICHARDTON — Guitar music and melodies of “Kum ba yah, My Lord” filtered through the hallways of Richardton-Taylor High School on Wednesday. Classrooms were coverted into “dorms,” while campers worked on crafts in another room.

The first summer session of Camp ReCreation ended Thursday with 28 campers, and the second week starts on Monday with 32 campers.

The purpose of Camp ReCreation is to offer a Christian-based camping experience for people with physical or mental disabilities, said Director Jackie Rebel. She works along side Program Director Lisa Lawrence.

The campers come from throughout North Dakota and eastern Montana. They are matched with counselors — usually young people of high school or college age.

“We serve a dual purpose. We really are for the youth, too. They come to have a great time and make sure we have a Christian-based positive atmosphere. The counselors get as much out of camp as the campers,” said Rebel.

“We are non-denominational. We are here for each other and serving God to the best of our abilities,” said Lawrence. “We have a chance to be Christ-like to the campers, and the campers are Christ-like back to us.”

Camp ReCreation became a reality with the vision of Sam and Vi McQuade who worked with Sr. Margil Renner to start a camp for “God’s special children.”

Renner and Brother Bede Baldry opened this camp in 1975 at Richardton’s Assumption Abbey, calling it St. Benedict’s Camp. A year later, the name was changed to Camp ReCreation. When the abbey and Sacred Heart Monastery could no longer sponsor the camp, a group of concerned individuals reorganized the program as Camp ReCreation Inc. during 1992.

While the directors and camp location have changed over the years, the mission has not.

“We have such an age range here, from as young as 7 to a gentleman this week who is over 80,” said Rebel.

Rebel started volunteering at Camp ReCreation as a counselor, then a teacher and now as a director.

“Actually, this is my 15th summer session I’ve been with the camp,” she said.

Rebel credits the unconditional love of the camp setting for pulling her back year after year.

“I think it’s a break from reality, to be quite honest. When you come here, it’s not like the real world. Everybody cares for everybody,” she said.

Rebel said several of the counselors have gone on to work at group homes.

“That actually happened to me. When I was 11 years old, I was helping. Now, I’m a residential supervisor for a group home in Bismarck and going to school for special education,” she said.

Lawrence grew up in Richardton and was recruited to volunteer as a youth of 14. She has a degree in special education, and works full time for a conservation group. Summers, she returns to Richardton.

“Sometimes, I wonder why I’m coming back every year and then something happens at camp — oh, that’s why,” she said. “I’ve worked in group home settings and I’ve seen people come here completely change — become full of life. They know they are in God’s presence.”

She also appreciates the letters written by counselors. They say camp was a place where they could fit in or they have a new base of friendships.

Counselor James Gardner from New England is serving a fourth year at the camp.

He said it’s a unique opportunity, something you can’t do every day. It’s an opportunity for him to grow in his faith and to be Christ-like to others.

His brother, Paul Gardner is serving his third year at the camp.

“It’s great to help people. They get so excited, like it’s the highlight of their year,” he said. “You learn a lot from them. They teach you to be grateful for the things you have. They love to give hugs.”

As camp director, Rebel said one of the challenges is finding donations to operate the camp.

“We need to run on donations, but with the tight economy, people aren’t willing to donate as much as they used to,” she said.

She expressed her appreciation to the area businesses who have donated dinners and snacks.

The campers sleep on air mattresses or regular beds.

“We set up little dorms. The school refers to them as classrooms, but we call them dorms,” she said.

Music depends on the instruments at hand — a guitar or maybe a harmonica.

“Our instruments are our voices. Hands and feet — that’s what we use most of the time,” she said.

Arts and crafts include painting or beading. Games might include kick ball, or playing with a parachute. Weather permitting, campers go swimming. They also enjoy the outing to Dickinson for an afternoon of bowling.

Camp nurse, Kim Rebel, LPN, manages medications and tends to tumbles and scrapes. She informs the counselors about any medical conditions their assigned campers may have. Counselors learn how to position and transfer clients, to take care of dentures or hearing aids or tips on how to communicate.

“I come at 6:30 a.m. and can be here until midnight,” she said.

Everyone looks forward to Wednesday when the counselors decorate the gymnasium into a prom-like setting, complete with streamers and balloons. After the banquet, K-Hook provides music for the grand march and dance.

Rebel has a wish-list of items as donations — medical supplies such as a stethoscope, thermometer, glucose monitor or blood pressure cuff. The list includes good pillows, sheets, blankets and sleeping bags, air mattresses, a propane grill, paper products, cleaning supplies, art supplies, office supplies, decorations and food items. The biggest item is a bus or large van to help with transportation.

In addition to the donations, Rebel would like to have more people involved.

“People could help out in the kitchen or lead activities. We don’t every have too many people standing around. There’s always something to do,” she said.

Counselors must be at least age 14 and older. Teachers are needed to lead group activities. There’s a need for medical staff, night supervisors, cooks, board members and task force members who help with general duties.

For more information on how to become involved, contact the staff by e-mail at staff@camprecreationnd.com. The Web site is www.camprecreationnd.com.

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