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Senior Summer Camp: Nourishing One's Spirit

D.C. nonprofit sponsors retreat for low-income seniors

  • Arrival at camp

    Summer camp participants arrive by bus at the retreat. Campers are escaping 100-degree Washington, D.C., heat for the relative coolness of the West Virginia hills. — Photo by Scott D. Eldridge

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I have vivid memories of my summer camp experience as a young teenager. Sleeping in a musty canvas tent, poking sticks into the campfire, swamping a canoe in the middle of a lake and talking about girls were all on the program. Most of all, the long summer days hanging out with my buddies were the best part. Those memories came flooding back when I heard about a summer camp experience for senior citizens living in the Washington, D.C., area.

See also: The key to spiritual growth.

So Others Might Eat, SOME, a nonprofit social services organization in the District of Columbia, sponsors an annual retreat for low-income seniors, who are typically age 65 and older. The camp is organized into two separate one-week sessions, in which SOME transports about 60 seniors for each session from the District to a rural setting in the rolling farm hills of northern West Virginia. Once they arrive, campers spend the week relaxing, socializing and recharging their spirits away from the D.C. summer heat and grit.

But surely seniors aren’t going to swamp a canoe at camp, are they? No, but they can compete in a Nintendo Wii bowling tournament, attend daily exercise sessions or take a golf cart ride. There are crafts, morning nature walks, a trivia contest, manicures, a birthday party, a campers' talent show and daily bingo sessions with terrific donated prizes.

The camp’s theme is “Let Your Light Shine,” which is a reference to the important spiritual component of the camp experience. Campers can participate in a daily worship service or an inspiring, self-organized fellowship group, or simply enjoy a bit of solitude and reflection in the natural surrounds.

This nourishing of one’s spirit is the secret ingredient that makes the camp a success. Like my teenage camping experience, the participants gel as a group as they make new friends and share their fun and their stories. But at this camp, there is an acceptance of one another that comes from the first-hand understanding of one’s vulnerabilities and appreciation for the collective strength of spirit. It brings the group together.

Spending long summer days hanging out with your buddies at senior camp might be more fun and enriching than that teenage experience.

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