If you were a certain age and a certain level of dorkiness in the early ’90s, you wished with all your socially-awkward soul that you could join the crew at Camp Anawanna.
The cats cannot make that dream come true for you. They can, however, give you a camp experience worth saluting. They can…and they did.
The inaugural year of Tabby’s Place camp hosted a grand total of fourteen small humans. Every iota of the two loud, victorious weeks was managed meticulously by one Volunteer Sue, who was clearly given 497 extra portions of patience and love when God was handing out virtues.
But Sue and the cats didn’t merely give fourteen children a megadose of magical realism. No; our fearless Camp Director/Counselor/Teacher/Sergeant of Suetacularity gave every iota of Tabby’s Place camp — and every last camper — a huge helping of heart.
But don’t take it from me. The following comes to you from the intrepid Sue herself:
“S’more camp, please!, said cats and kids at Tabby’s Place this summer.
“We ran our first ever camp for kids ages 8-11 for two weeks in July, and it was a rousing success. While we didn’t actually make any s’mores, the kids had a fantastic time making crafts for the cats and spending time taking care of them and playing with them.
“Thanks to amazing support from the Tabby’s Place staff and volunteers, the children were able to experience the importance and joy of helping animals. The children who came to the camp were already animal lovers, but now have more of an appreciation for the work and dedication it takes to work with shelter animals day in and day out.
“Each day the kids arrived at Tabby’s Place at 10:00, ready to start their day. Actually, many of them came a little early each day because they were too excited about camp to stay home any longer! We gathered under a tent on the side lawn and started every day with a craft. The first day, the kids decorated their own scrub tops to wear while they were working in the building. This gave them a sense of being official and also identified them to staff, volunteers and visitors as Tabby’s Place campers.
“As the week went on, we made fleece blankets for the cats to use and catnip toys. Camper Shannon wrote, On Wednesday we made cat toys. We made feathered ones. In the first minutes (of playing with the toy) Angus took two of my feathers off! I guess the glue didn’t dry enough. The children also decorated a journal that they could write in and draw about what they were learning and experiencing.
“After craft time (and after the volunteers had a fair head start on getting their work done!) the children were split into two groups to feed and give water to the cats. Each group had about half of the building to take care of. As camper Gillian explained in her journal, The first thing you want to do before you feed the cats is look at the doors to the room you’re going to and look at how much food and/or water you will need. You will also need to look at what food types you need. Then go to the Laundry room; that is where you will find all of the food types, like Fancy Feast or Science Diet. Next pour the food into bowls, and finally, give the food to the cats. It was a great teaching opportunity, not only to flex math muscles figuring out how much food to give each room and to divide it evenly into bowls, but to also be aware of special diets and the importance of reading to find out information that is vital to the cats’ well being. (As a teacher, I always look for that teachable moment!) The kids dearly loved feeding the cats and taking care of them.
“Before we took a break for lunch, we spent what could arguably be the favorite time for most of the campers…kitten time! We were fortunate enough to have camp during kitten season, and there were plenty of kittens scampering around the Community Room for the kids to play with. I am pretty sure these are the most socialized kittens ever to leave Tabby’s Place!”
“After lunch each day we had a guest speaker who would educate the children about different animal rescue issues. Jonathan told them the story of Tabby’s Place and his inspiration for starting it. Angela and Danielle told the kids stories about the cats and explained the importance of telling these stories so that people would fall in love with Tabby’s Place and support the cats generously. As Camper Karlee wrote, We learned that every cat has a story. One story was Rose‘s story. She had got hit by a car while she was a little kitten. Oksana had a problem breathing so they had to put a tube in her throat for her throat to widen.
“Lori talked to the children about TNR, showed them a trap, and explained why it is so important to help the outdoor colonies of cats as well as shelter cats. Kayla remembered that TNR means trap, neuter and return. What they do is they set up a cage, catch a cat, then neuter it and last return it to the place where they caught it. Nancy spoke with the children about cat behavior and helped them to understand how to best play with the cats. Dr. C and Denise spent a lot of time with the children showing them all about being a veterinarian, and also showing them fabulous things like a cat’s skull, an abscess, a parasite, and some X-rays of cats and dogs. Camper Rachel later wrote in her journal, We learned that Morgan had got shot in the side with a BB gun. Sinatra had a fractured leg. His leg couldn’t heal so he got his leg amputated.
“At the end of each day, the children had time to play with the adult cats. They took their feather toys and spent time in each suite playing and exercising the cats. I don’t know who had more fun — kids or cats. It was amazing to see cats who rarely interact with children really enjoying it. I was surprised by some of the cats and how well they took to the kids. It was such a lovely sight to behold. After playing with the cats, we went back outside to our tent, and the kids wrote and drew about their day while they waited for their parents to arrive to pick them up.
“I really want to thank everyone who helped us with Tabby’s Place camp. My full-day helpers, Megan, Jessica, Justine and Donna, were fantastic! I couldn’t have done this without their amazing support. They were all wonderful with the kids and did a great job helping the children grow to love Tabby’s Place.
“I also want to thank everyone who donated things to help the camp. I don’t even know who all of you are, but your contributions enabled us to direct 100% of camp registration fees to the care of the cats. Everything that we needed was donated. This is amazing and really made this experience even more rewarding for me! So I send more thanks than I can possibly express.
“Finally, thanks so much to the staff and volunteers who were working during the time that we were there. Everyone was so welcoming to the children and were so patient when we all trooped through the building doing our thing. The kids really felt as if they were a part of Tabby’s Place and were doing something important and worthwhile. They all want to be Tabby’s Place volunteers in a few years when they are old enough. That is all we can ask for.
“Here’s to next year and hopefully another successful camp experience!!”
And here’s to you, stalwart Sue. For your patience, your creativity, and your hard-working love of little ones furred and otherwise, you have our grateful awe.