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A little touch of God: Camp ReCreation offers camping experiences

Enjoying an outing to a park at Taylor are Camp ReCreation counselors and campers, Joann Glasoe, Anna Small, Patricia Helfrich and Emma Fleischacker.

Campers and counselors walk hand-in-hand when they transition from one event to the next at Taylor-Richardton School. It’s a unique bond formed quickly at Camp ReCreation.

“It’s an experience that changes people’s lives for both the campers as well as the counselors,” said Lisa Lawrence, program director.

Camp ReCreation  is a faith-based camp for campers with physical and mental disabilities. It promotes acceptance, friendship and caring.  Sister Margil Renner and Sam McQade Sr., whose son Sean McQade was a camper, started the camp in 1975 at Assumption Abbey. This year’s camping experience has two sessions-- June 3-7 and June 10-15. Enrollment included 38 campers the first week and 35 the second week. They range in age anywhere from 7 to 77.

The counselors are volunteers, generally teenagers from around the region or across the state of North Dakota.

“It’s amazing to see what their response will be,” Lawrence said. “Teenagers come back and tell me how they walk into a place that’s full of acceptance and caring. They create new friendships, different from normal friendships, that will last forever.”

In recent years, the camp was held at Richardton-Taylor School, but because of renovations, it was moved to Taylor this year. The campers stay at the school, sleeping on cots or air mattresses.

The campers  and counselors attend four classes  per the day -- music, religion, art and games. Then there’s different activities such as a petting zoo, entertainment in the evening, and of course, the big banquet and dance.

Camper David Kuhn said the dancing is the most fun. Camper Joann Glasoe said the dance and banquet are her favorites, but she likes the animals, too.

“I came here when I was a little kid at the Abbey. I like seeing the counselors and campers,” Glasoe said.

First-time counselor Anna Small said, “I think it’s really wonderful to be with the campers,” and counselor Emma Fleischacker added, “It’s so much fun. I get to meet a lot of new people.”

Another highlight was when the Camp ReCreation campers visited the Badlands Bible Camp at Medora on Tuesday afternoon.

“When you see people working together, you see a little touch of God that you don’t normally see,” Lawrence said.

Other adult volunteers from the community also dedicate time at camp. Monks from Assumption Abbey may teach a class or help with personal care. Area artists set up lesson plans or sometimes demonstrate a craft.

Lawrence  grew up in Richardton  and started volunteering in her teen years.

“I believe I started at Camp ReCreation when I was 14,” she said. “What brings me back? It’s hard to explain… it’s an overall feeling, it’s the smiles and joy that it brings people. It’s seeing what camp does for people.  It’s making a difference in people’s lives -- that’s what gives me a reason to come back.”

As a non-profit, Camp ReCreation is run larging by donations and a few grants.

“We’re always open for volunteers, not just as counselors, but behind the scenes, helping in the kitchen or tearing down,” she said.

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