AGING WELL: Epworth "Grand Camp" fosters special bonds

5/6/2012

By Missy Buchanan
UMR Columnist 

A grandmother paused while her 9-year old grandson tried to scoop up sand with his bare feet. For the last half-hour, they had been strolling along the wide beach of the Atlantic, feeling the mist on their faces and picking up sea shells. She couldn’t remember the last time she had felt so free to enjoy her grandson in the beauty of nature. 

Over the years she had traveled many places with all three of her grandchildren. They had ridden horses in the mountains and amusement rides at Disney World. One summer they had squeezed eight family members into a three-bedroom condo for a week-long romp at the beach. But this outing was different. 

This year she was participating in Grand Camp at Epworth By The Sea on St. Simons Island, Ga., an intergenerational camp for grandparents and their elementary-aged grandchildren. More than a fun-filled vacation, Grand Camp is designed to nurture both the emotional and spiritual bond between grandparent and grandchild. 

Faye Lacey affirms that Grand Camp is different from other family trips she’s taken with her grandchildren. When her youngest grandchild Rose lamented that she was not old enough to join her siblings for church youth activities and mission trips, Faye began to search for something special they could do together. She discovered Grand Camp and was soon convinced that she had found just the right place for a meaningful intergenerational experience in a faith-filled environment. Her expectations were exceeded. 

“Grand Camp was special to both of us because neither of us had to divide our attention or schedules among others. The one-on-one experience was exceptional. The focus was on doing things with each other. It was truly a godsend,” Faye says. 

Judy McWhorter of Swainsboro, Ga., agrees. Last summer she took her 8-year-old grandson Patrick to Grand Camp. The middle child in his family, Patrick enjoyed not having to share his grandmother’s attention with his siblings. 

“There was a variety of well-planned activities, but there was also free time in the afternoon,” she says. “Since Patrick enjoys sea animals, he really loved the dolphin cruise.”

Open to all
Don’t make the mistake of thinking, though, that the four-day event is just for solo grandparents with one grandchild. Grandparents, in pairs or singles, can attend with one grandchild or a dozen. Epworth, a well-known United Methodist retreat center, has lodging accommodations to fit the needs of each family. 

There is a litany of traditional camp experiences for all to enjoy: swimming, biking, fishing, storytelling, crafting, beachcombing, sing-alongs, cookouts, bonfires and more. But there are two activities that seem to garner the most excitement: the shrimp boat cruise aboard the Lady Jane and the skits/talent show involving both grandparents and grandkids. 

This year’s Grand Camp is scheduled from June 22 through 25 and is available to all, not just United Methodists in the South Georgia Conference. The theme this summer will be “Exploring the World of the Boy Jesus and His Family.” The camp director will be Dr. Ron Hall, a retired United Methodist minister who lives in the area and is a surf fishing enthusiast. 

There are also some new activities: a butterfly release at evening vespers and Sunday school at the beach with sand sculpting. 

After discovering Grand Camp at Epworth By The Sea, there is one thing I know for sure. I look forward to the day when my toddler grandsons get a little older so their Poppi and I can take them to Grand Camp. I want to watch them scoop up the sand with their bare feet and share with them the wonder of it all.

Ms. Buchanan, a member of FUMC Rockwall, Texas, is the author of several books, including Aging Faithfully: 28 Days of Prayer (Upper Room Books). Reach her at missy@missybuchanan.com. For Grand Camp info, see www.epworthbythesea.org.