This post comes from Loretta Villani, a repeat SagaGrands guest. The original article appeared in a newsletter for her retiree group, Manhasset Public Schools.
To see availability for this and other Intergenerational Camps, visit our website.
As a young child I always dreaded the back to school assignment to write a composition entitled “What I did during my summer vacation!” Now, as a grandmother, I’m very happy to share my wonderful summer experience at what my grandchildren and I have nicknamed “Granny Camp.” Officially it’s called Sagagrands. My two grandchildren Sarah (11) and CJ (9) and I happily anticipate returning for our third summer.
Sagagrands is a week of fun-filled activities for grandparents and their grandchildren to share at Great Camp Sagamore. An accomplished staff lead the children and grandparents in activities from morning ‘til bedtime. The activities include music, arts and crafts, nature discovery, swimming and canoeing (depending on the weather), games and campfires. In addition to a great program and expert staff, the camp is well organized. For a week, we enjoy a true camp experience as it might have been many years ago. There are no computers, cell phones, iPads, electronic games or even televisions. Of course, all the grandparents have cell phones, but other than using them to check the time of day or take a picture, they are almost useless. There is almost no cell reception in the area. There is an old fashioned phone with a booth on the porch to the dining room to make calls. Even that was a learning experience. Grandchildren and their grandparents stay together in their own private rooms. Most meals are served in the dining hall, buffet style, so even the pickiest eater can find something. The day begins at 8:00 when the breakfast bell rings. After, the leaders discuss the day’s events with group. Let the fun begin!
Since most of the activities are outdoors, they are subject to the weather. At the morning planning meeting, everyone is advised of any weather concerns and necessary modifications to the plans. We have been there for a few days of over 90° (lots of swimming), a few days of almost constant rain (so we got a little wet despite rain jackets), a few nights where below 40° (heat was graciously turned on for the evening), and a hail storm. The hail storm was fascinating as we all watched it come over the mountain and across the lake. Fortunately, everyone was accounted for. We were in the dining room for dinner. The children were anxious to go out and play in the hail, but no one did so until the storm had completely blown away. My only real dislike was the few days of black flies…they bite! But when the temperature finally dropped from 90° plus to the 50’s, they went elsewhere. The weather does not inhibit anyone. We are all there to enjoy and so we do!
I frequently ask Sarah and CJ what their favorite aspect of an outing is as we discuss it later. When asked the question at the end of camp last summer, CJ responded the night hike for children 9 and older. They walked solo or in pairs, as with Sarah and CJ, from the Wigwam Bridge to a spot further down the trail where the leader was waiting for them. At the beginning of this activity the leader explained night vision and how animals and people adapt to the total darkness of the woods. No flashlights were used on this outing. And it is dark at night in the mountains! Sarah responded her favorite event was screen painting a tee shirt with leaves and ferns found in the area. She is most creative. However, picking a favorite at Sagagrands was difficult, so many great activities to pick from!
I am very fortunate that I am able to do this with my grandchildren despite that they live in Illinois. My son John and his wife Nancy work with me to determine how to coordinate this event. Each year we have piggybacked it with a wonderful family reunion at the nearby Raquette Lake. I have a great bond with both Sarah and CJ, but this week of Granny Camp is so very special. It is not the end product that is so meaningful, but the process of getting there. Whether we win or lose at a game (even for competitive CJ), have a “perfect” craft, or mess up the words of a song, it is the fun and sharing of ideas that we have in the process that is so meaningful. The first year, the second evening, my granddaughter Sarah said to me: “Granny this is so awesome! Can we do it again next year?” And so, we are returning for our third summer. I can just enjoy, relax and cherish the wonderful memories Sarah, CJ and I are creating. This place, the people we have met, and my unique and so very special time with Sarah and CJ will always be a heartfelt treasure.