For the past seven years, children who live around the Rolling Meadows Apartments in Sun Prairie have been able to participate in a summer camp-like setting right outside their own homes. Thanks to volunteers, teachers, community activists and pastors, the kids around rolling meadows have the chance to socialize every Tuesday from 3 until 6 for almost the entire summer.
Approximately 20 kids and at least 15 adults braved the threatening rain clouds on Tuesday afternoon to put together the program on the playground by Rolling Meadows. Armed with a lot of love and positive energy, Pastor Jake Germann scurried around the grounds directing traffic, organizing games, crafts, helping other volunteers and doing basically everything to make sure the camp went without a hitch.
“We run for six weeks, we take off for the 4th of July,” Germann told Madison365. “We’re hoping the rain holds off but even with the rain we’ll still make it happen! We’ve got hoops, foursquare, football and playground games. We’ll use the field across the way for games. We just spread out here and do fun things with the kids. Then around 5 we’ll get back together and have a meal with the kids.”
Hot dogs were the meal on tap this past Tuesday and as the dozens of kids and volunteers arrived to get things going it was clear that the afternoon camp has been working both for the returning kids and for kids who were new to the experience.
Two first-year campers told Madison365 that just seeing the other kids outside playing drew them to the day camp and their goals were to get to know the other kids from the area, play games, and make some friends.
Germann hopes they learn more than just friendship but to see the other kids (and themselves) as valuable.
“I’m a pastor so my heart is obviously that they would know God’s love. We want to show them God’s love by just spending time with them. But ultimately the theme here is just everyone has value,” Germann told Madison365. “So we’re trying to just help them understand that they have value and their friends have value and that value comes from God. So nothing can take that away. Their circumstances, their family troubles, the kind of clothes they wear- none of that gives them value. Their value is already given and hopefully they understand that.”
Each camper will have the chance to create their own tie-dye shirt that will have the words “Everyone has value” on it.
It seems telling in this vitriolic climate in so many areas of life right now that focusing on the value each person has simply by existing would be the theme of the camp this year.
“Everyone has value is the message that we’re trying to give to the kids and what we are hoping they get from coming here,” longtime volunteer Christina Williams told Madison365. “What I do is I go around and love on the kids and I try to reach all of them. I try and make sure that every one of them knows their value because they are all important and they’re all special and they all have value. And I think that’s where this year’s message comes from.”
As mid-afternoon hits, most of the kids and volunteers are out on the basketball court behind Rolling Meadows. Some are doing graffiti artwork on the pavement. Others are participating in arts and crafts. Two brave teenagers work to plug in amplifiers so they can have guitar music and pray the rain holds off!
Several members of the Sun Prairie football team show up to volunteer as does Officer Cody Ennis of the Sun Prairie Police Department. Everyone having value resonates with Officer Ennis because outreach like this is a chance for the kids to see him as more than just an authority figure.
“I think it’s great for the children to interact with different groups, especially the police department, to build relationships,” Ennis told Madison365. “I think if we can give them a positive experience by interacting with them in situations like this or even just handing out stickers, it’s going to set the tone for how they should interact with us.”
This year brought a new set of volunteers as well. Selfless Ambition founder Henry Sanders, who is also Publisher of Madison365, did a large amount of community outreach to help bring people together to support the camp.
“This is my first time here. I found out about this from Henry Sanders of Selfless Ambition,” said Linda Chipman who came all the way from Beaver Dam to volunteer. “I watched a little video that they had made and I thought it was important for just churches and businesses and citizens to come together and take care of the kids in our community. So here I am! I’m excited to see what happens.”
Camp Tuesday is now in its eighth year and was started by Silvina Rubiano, a Creekside Elementary School teacher who started a homework club during the school year. When summer hit, the kids from her homework club asked what they’re supposed to do now? So Rubiano started the Tuesday camp to run the length of the summer so the kids could stay in touch and have a camp experience right at home.
Camp Tuesday meets from 3 to 6 pm for the next six weeks outside the Rolling Meadows apartments on South Bird Street in Sun Prairie.