WILMINGTON — For grade-school students, the summer could be extremely boring, or it could be extremely productive, with crafts, service and water games. Thirty-two rising fifth- through eighth-grade students spent a week in June at St. Mary Magdalen making the most of their time.
Extreme Camp is now in its third year at the north Wilmington parish. The campers — 27 girls and five boys — kept busy around the campus and with each other. Eight counselors, seven of whom are in high school, joined in, as did a few adults and St. Mary Magdalen youth minister Theresa Griffith.
The camp was designed for students who are too old for Vacation Bible School but too young for a sleepover work camp. Sixteen students attended the first year, and it has doubled in size since then, Griffith said.
“Each day, we have a morning chapel where they put on a skit that goes along with a reading, and they have to come up with an original prayer with their group,” she said.
The work around the parish grounds included cleaning the prayer garden, the pews and the hall underneath the church.
“It’s something that gives back to our parish community. We want the kids to feel like this is my parish, too,” Griffith said.
One of the service activities was making rosaries. A company called Our Lady’s Rosary Makers distributes the rosaries wherever they are needed, including to prisons or overseas. The campers made sure to place the correct number of beads on a string before getting some help correctly tying the string from the counselors.
Rose Casey, a rising fifth-grader, said making rosaries was fun.
“We’re giving the rosaries to someone who can’t afford rosaries, so it will make them feel happy,” she said.
Rose added that she likes to learn about God and the Bible and the saints. Her sister, Bridget, who will be in seventh grade, said she likes learning about her faith. She also liked one of the fun aspects of the camp.
“We have trivia, and it’s really fun because you learn more,” she said, adding that correct answers could lead to prizes.
Laney DeCaro, another rising seventh-grader, said she probably would have been home on her couch if she did not attend Extreme Camp. “We’re learning how to, I guess, just get along with all of our friends, have fun at camp and learn about God.”
Her classmate, Ava Panunto, attended her first camp. She didn’t know what to expect, but she had a good time.
“It’s really fun and cool,” she said. “We played slip-and-slide kickball yesterday. We go to clean out the church, which was fun.”
One final rising seventh-grader, Ashley Ballinger, is an altar server at St. Mary Magdalen. She had an outside influence who encouraged her to attend the Extreme Camp.
“My mom wanted me to be more involved in the church than I already am. I go away to softball tournaments a lot on the weekends, so instead of altar serving I’ve been going to churches around the state,” said Ashley, who also portrayed a lion in one of the skits about David in the lions’ den.
The camp is one of the activities that keep St. Mary Magdalen humming during what could be the slow summer months, Griffith said.
“There’s a lot to do over the summer here,” she said. “We have barbecues every month. We have this camp, and then we take the older kids to Catholic Work Camp. We have Vacation Bible School and youth group meetings. It almost picks up in the summer time.”