Hi everyone! I’ve been given the extreme honor of writing about the 2008 UOO camp. Many of you were involved daily with the camp, some helped as your schedules allowed, and a few others attended an event or two. No matter your level of involvement, I want to let you know that the UOO staff is blessed to have your support. The kids enjoyed every day and every activity. Your help and donations made it all possible.
On our first day of camp, the kids enjoyed a relaxing day at the lake. UOO’ers, the Carmen’s, have a house on Horseshoe Lake in Loveland. There were many water activities for the kids such as kayaking, tubing, boating, swimming, paddle boating and water balloons. A picnic lunch was followed by more water activities (I think it’s an old wives’ tale about not swimming after eating…I think our parents didn’t want to chase after us after “pigging out”). The evening ended with a spaghetti dinner and marshmallow roast.
The next day, the kids were loaded up into several vehicles (thanks drivers and chaperones) and taken to the Denver aquarium. It is safe to say that every kid had never seen fish like these at all in their lives. Many were captivated by the exotic species and all of them were amazed by the sheer size of a few of the fish!
Day three had the children taking in an Art Day. This was a good day for the children to showcase their artistic talent and make delightful crafts for themselves, the community and the families with whom they were living. Sack lunches were brought by a generous volunteer and many helpers were on hand to assist the kids with their crafts and drawings.
Have you ever seen a kid eat a raw onion right out of the ground? Well, day four, I did! Quite a few of the kids, in fact. In Ukraine, many families and the orphanages, grow their own vegetables. So, seeing a garden is not a big deal, unless it’s the huge expanse of Miller Farms in Platteville! The kids couldn’t believe the size of the farm and the huge size of their crops. The onions, potatoes and turnips were the size of softballs. It was a joy to see the kids digging and pulling up vegetables. They were especially eager to get good ones as they were told that many of these vegetables would end up in our annual Ukrainian Dinner that they themselves would cook and serve.
Day five started with the big birthday picnic bash! At this orphanage, we learned that the kid’s birthdays are celebrated twice a year, those having birthdays in the first six months and those with birthdays in the last six months. As a gift, the kids only get a bowl of fruit. UOO felt that it was important to celebrate each child’s birthday and as a result we held a picnic in Berthoud with the community. At the party, each child received a gift and special recognition. Following the picnic, each child was chaperoned by an adult or family and taken to Wal-Mart to spend a $25 gift card. Some of the items they purchased ranged from Batman costumes to clothes to gifts for their friends. What a great time! The evening was concluded with a trip to the Colorado National Speedway in Erie. The kids enjoyed the fast cars and thought the “crazy eights” race was hilarious. What a fun end to a full day!
It was finally time for our annual Ukrainian dinner on day six. This dinner affords the kids the opportunity to give back to the community that has sponsored them. As noticed at last year’s camp, the kids really get into this because they really do like to work and serve others. It is their only way to say thank you! During the dinner, guests had the chance to bid on items at various tables for our silent auction, too. Many thanks to the donators of our items. Through your generosity we were able to raise a few thousand dollars for next year’s camp. Dinner was a nice entrée of Ukrainian cabbage rolls, borsht, and perogees. Our food volunteers worked hard to help the kids pull off another successful dinner and this contributed more funds to the next camp. The kids also knew that the dinner is a way for them to “pay it forward”, as the kids from the 2007 camp did last year. It’s another reminder of community service and God’s abundant love for us.
On day seven, the Lord rested, and I wished we could! Just kidding! By this time we were in full swing as the kids took part in Mission It’s Possible’s carnival and craft day. The kids enjoyed a relaxing morning making more crafts and playing at the carnival and were ramped up when we headed off to the rodeo that night. The Larimer county 4-H’ers sponsored our night at the rodeo. All eyes were wide open as the kids took in their first ever rodeo. I don’t think they knew what was in store as they sat in the arena, awaiting the action. But, I can tell you from firsthand experience, we have some new rodeo fans! Thanks 4-H!
We went to the mountains and camped for days eight, nine and ten. The kids learned rifle safety, archery, tenting, capture the flag, and good nature stewardship, and the teachings of Christ our savior. They were also treated to real chuck-wagon style meals everyday! It was fun to watch the kids “be kids”, a real change to their hard life as orphans. I stood in amazement every day with those big mountains surrounding us and I was touched by the gentle hand of God. It was a sort of revival for me as much as it was a terrific Christian experience for the kids. I shall never forget these days with them and God for as long as I live. I encourage you to come next year and experience the same.
On day eleven, we returned from the mountains and got cleaned up for our trip to an educational center in Longmont, Math Monkey. The kids enjoyed the learning experience and were a little surprised that they were in “school” for the morning. The owner of Math Monkey showed the kids a new way of tackling math once they got home. . The kids got a little bit restless as they knew that swimming was next. We walked over to the Longmont Rec Center, an indoor water park, for the remainder of the day and the kids had a blast. There is plenty to do there such as the Lazy River, sliding tubes, water pipes, diving board, and the pool. As always, the pool and the lake are favorites! So, when it was time to go, I needed all the help I could get wrestling the kids out of the water.
Day twelve was a community day at Horseshoe Lake with the Carmen’s again (this helped me get the kids out of the pool the day before). Lunch and dinner were again provided by a host of volunteers, of which I cannot begin to remember, thanks to all of you! Again, water fun is one of the kid’s favorite activities. Of course they enjoyed every bit of the day. Who wouldn’t! Its fun to be a kid again and you have an excuse, eight excuses to be exact. You got to come out and be a part of this next time, if you missed it!
We went to see a Rockies game and the Steven Curtis Chapman concert on day thirteen. The Rockies lost and rain cut the concert short, but the kids didn’t care. It was another opportunity to see something “American” and hang out with their new friends outdoors. Thanks to all who donated to this special day!
The Pioneer Village tour in Greeley was next on day fourteen. The kids got a firsthand look at pioneer life in America and took part in a TV news story about their visit. See the story on our website at www.ukraineorphans.org
A dairy farm tour and horseback riding in Berthoud was in store for day fifteen. We even found out that we had a natural cowboy in the group when Vanya schooled us all in the finer points of horsemanship. They kids loves seeing how milk was produced and being that it was a warm summer day this year, the dairy let the kids have their pool for the day. Again, water fun is the best fun when it comes to this group! So there were no complaints heard.
Our last full day with the kids was at the Rogé home doing scrapbooking. This was a chance for the kids to get their photos from the whole trip and place them in albums or scrapbooks to keep for all time. Volunteers made certain that every kid had a complete set of pictures from their trip. Some wanted to scrapbook while others didn’t want to cut up the pictures. It was a chance to enjoy some quiet time with the kids and to unwind from the busy weeks that preceded. It was a great final day.
Again, thanks to everyone who donated time, funds and most of all, LOVE! This is a once in a lifetime experience for these kids that they will never forget, always cherish, and talk about for the rest of their lives. Come join us next time and talk about it for the rest of your lives. You’ll be glad you did!