When I was a kid, I didn’t get to go to sleep away camps like a lot of my classmates did. I did get to go to a weekend camp with my mom and my sisters though. It was once every summer for the Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis foundation at Camp for All. My sisters were both diagnosed with JRA since the age of 1. They are identical twins and unfortunately, it got them both.
The foundation was always very generous and we did a lot of things with them. One of them was my favorite, camp! It was a whole weekend full of horseback riding, rock climbing, archery, dancing, swimming, and crafts. There were also these great camp counselors that did it all! They did the activities, the singing, the serving of the food, the music at the dance party, all of it. They made all of us feel welcomed. My sisters loved it and so did my mom and I. It was a great time to just forget about their pain and enjoy the outdoors.
It was amazing just being there for a weekend, spending time with my family in nature. I loved the huge cabins and bunk beds. My favorite thing to do before bed was lay outside and watch the stars. I live in a big city and stars are scarce but in the country they fill the night sky. I would sit out there and wait until a shooting star would cross my path. I would then wish for my sisters to not have JRA anymore.
Another one of my favorite things that the camp had was great food. I don’t remember anything being my favorite. But I do always remember the salad bar. They had this salad bar on a bright red cart. It was full of crispy iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, croutons, pasta salad, eggs, olives, cheese, fruits, seeds, and tons of dressings.
After a long day of horseback riding I was ready for my salad! Yes yes, I would get the other food too but also make my own yummy plate of salad and fixings.
Iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, croutons, and pineapple. I would then grab the ranch dressing and add more than a fair serving. I know, pineapple with ranch sounds gross but trust me.
Sitting in that big cafetería surrounded by everyone in the foundation made me feel like home. Everyone was kind to each other. Everyone understood pain. Everyone was there for a reason. It was a time with no hate, no differences, and just acceptance. I enjoyed my ranch with a side of salad surrounded by love.
As an adult and teacher, working with students with special needs, I have been back to that camp. The last time I went just last October was the first time since I was a kid. The wood in the big cafetería smelt the same, the benches covered with previous campers writing were still there, the pool still had that red noodle that sprinkled water on everyone, the big rock climbing wall was still there. The only thing that wasn’t was the salad bar. Unfortunately, dude to covid, they removed it. They just served a little side salad in the regular line.
Besides the lack of the amazing salad bar in the red cart, the place still felt like home. It still felt welcoming and loving to all. My students had an amazing time creating their own memories.
Salads are really not thought of as a camping meal but it’s the meal that reminds me of a loving time as a kid. They also made delicious s’mores!