Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

St. Thomas More School’s annual Camp Wooten experience builds confidence, unity among students

by Katie Schmarr, for the Inland Register

(From the Dec. 6, 2007 edition of the Inland Register)

Five years of learning, expanding, dreaming, laughing, thinking, trying and succeeding, and St. Thomas More School’s Camp Wooten is still going strong.

The camp, which takes place in early October, is a trip for all students in the sixth, seventh, and eighth grades. Every person who attended this year, child or adult, new to camp or an old veteran, had loads of fun.

Outdoor activities are key to the annual Camp Wooten experience for St. Thomas More School’s sixth, seventh, and eight graders, including archery. (IR photo courtesy of St. Thomas More School, Spokane)

The adventure began when students piled into the gigantic Greyhound buses that would carry them to the destination point, which sat hours away. All of the kids, including myself, were excited; you could feel the anticipation and thrill mounting. Everyone wanted to see the camp, which is nestled quietly in the Blue Mountains on the Tucannon River.

Our first day at camp was a blur. After we were assigned cabins, we were organized into class groups, the collections of kids with whom we attended classes. Every group included a couple of kids from each grade, so we got to intermix with those of different ages, which we do not do too often at school.

Within a short amount of time, we had made new friends who would encourage us, congratulate us, and assist us in all tasks, challenging or not. It did not matter if you were scaling the mountainside or making corn bread; your class group was always there, smiling or laughing or shivering, and letting you know that you had people to keep you going if you made a mistake.

The classes of Camp Wooten are much more interactive and fun than any normal classes. They consisted of rock climbing, horseback riding, orienteering, survival, Dutch-oven cooking, and more.

Our first day also included forming Olympics teams. The “Olympics,” as we called them, were a great experience that pushed each student to excel as an athlete and a person. In the Olympics, there were several different sports that teams rotated through to compete against other teams, including soccer, football, water polo, and lacrosse, among others. Because these activities required a lot of cooperation and working together, our teams, with a mix of grade levels, had to come together and put aside our differences. Some were good lacrosse, and others were not. A few people were stars on the soccer field, and others could not kick a ball straight. It did not matter, though. We knew that if we got our teams fired up, helped each other out and brought everyone into the action, we would do well.

On the third day of camp, the Olympics ended in a heart-pounding relay. There were many stations, some intellectual, some physical. Each team carefully selected which student should be at each station, based on that student’s individual skills and abilities. Once the horn blew, the race was on. After a teammate finished one task, they would sprint to the next station, team flag in hand, so that the next teammate could begin their activity. The flags were passed from station to station, and everyone was hoping and praying their group members were doing well, wanting to help them but knowing that they simply had to have faith. Once a team’s flag got to the end of the line, one person would ring a giant bell in the camp’s entry, signaling that they were finished.

Team by team rang that bell and waited patiently until everyone else had done so, too. In the end, it did not matter if your team got first or last. Everybody tried their hardest and enjoyed the relay immensely.

The nights of camp were filled with activities, too. Campfires, which were basically groups of kids putting on skits and songs in front of the rest of the camp, were completely awesome. On the first night, we eighth graders put on a performance that we had been planning for weeks. Some of my classmates put on hilarious skits to make people roar with laughter, while others woke up the crowd with lively songs.

Sixth, seventh, and eighth graders had the opportunity learn water safety techniques. (IR photo courtesy of St. Thomas More School, Spokane)

Most everyone was laughing and smiling, and, by the end, we were very proud of our accomplishment. On the third night, a campfire with mixed groups took place, with more skits and songs. I really think it helped a lot of the younger kids come out of their shells and have some fun.

On the night between the campfires, the entire camp played Capture the Flag. We were split into two teams, one team getting one half of camp and the other team getting the remaining half. Again, our teamwork skills and athletic capabilities were tested as we dashed stealthily across the border to try and capture the other team’s flag. After several rounds of scheming, running, helping our friends scheme and run, and wearing our lungs out in the cold mountain air, we were finished. The experience was exhilarating and it posed many obstacles, but, in the end, the whole camp could define it in one word: “fun!”

Finally, after days of learning, playing, discovering new skills, making new friends, eating delicious camp food (courtesy of Mr. Louie and our talented kitchen staff), and having the time of our lives, camp came to a close. Once we had packed, gone to a prayer service put on by Deacon Doug Banks (our principal), we took the last few pictures our cameras had in them and loaded into the buses once again.

Camp is one of the most amazing experiences I have undergone so far in life. Three years and it still has not lost its spark, its magic that makes you long to be there when you are little and long to come back when you are older. When I was a sixth grader, I was timid and I did not know what to expect from camp. I ended up loving it anyway. When I was a seventh grader, I knew what was waiting for me, and again I ended up loving it, but I was still a bit reserved. And now, as an eighth grader, I feel as though I did not hold back. I lived camp to its fullest potential.

Perhaps being the elders of the school makes us eighth graders feel as though we have done it all and seen it all, and we are not scared of anything when it comes to Camp Wooten. Perhaps the fact that we had to be leaders for the other kids this year made us want to have as much fun as we possibly could. That way, we could show the younger kids that it was okay to let go and enjoy camp. Perhaps it was a combination of the two, plus the fact that this was our last year at camp as a class, waking up to each others’ faces, racing through the pines together, and eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner together. Did we get sick of each other? I cannot say. During camp, your class is like your family. You get used to each other, you take care of each other, you crack jokes with each other and maybe have a few bad times together, but you are family all the same.

That is what camp has turned my class into over the years: A group of nigh fearless brothers and sisters who must be good role models for those younger than us, so that they know what to do when they are the leaders. You fall down, get your jeans a little dirty, and someone helps you up so that you can keep going. When you see someone else fall down and get dirty, you help them up so they can keep going. That is what Camp Wooten is. Camp is what ties the upperclassmen of St. Thomas More together. It is what makes us look at each other, and at ourselves, and realize the people we want to become – the people Camp Wooten helps to create.

If there is anything that can change a person and transform their outlook on life, it is love. So, let me end by saying this: Camp Wooten is not just about playing sports or putting on campfires. It is about bringing very different people together so that they have the strength to stand on their own.

(Katie Schmarr is an eighth grader at St. Thomas More School, Spokane)

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