Lily Anderson a camper from St. Mary Parish in Moline is assisted by Lakin Shelton, right, and a life guard at the bottom of a slide in the pool at Camp Hiawatha in Wichita during the annual Holy Family Camp last month. Shelton is a member of St. Francis of Assisi Parish. (Advance photo)

This year’s Holy Family Camp may be over but many of the campers are already counting the days until the second week of June next year.
“Just as soon as the camp is over they start planning what they will do next year,” said Myra Jacobs, director of the diocesan Ministry with Persons with Disabilities. “Camp is their vacation, but it’s also a week of respite for their parents and caregivers.”
Jacobs said 97 campers and 135 volunteers went away happy Friday, June 15, after a rain-free but hot workweek of fun, food, friends – and prayer.
“They (the volunteers) all say that it’s a deeply spiritual experience. They (the campers) teach us what’s important in life, that we help each other. Relationships are important and we all get along with the help of our friends.”
The Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary had a key role in this year’s camp whose theme was “Mary, Our Mother.”
“The lesson was that Mary said yes and that we all should also say yes,” Jacobs said.
Two people who couldn’t help but say yes, she said, were Andy and Kim Herrman, directors of Camp Hiawatha, the Salvation Army facility located in north Wichita. “They were extremely helpful. If we needed anything at all, they were right there to help us.”
Jacobs said the ministry is planning to work with the Herrmans to purchase a lift to hoist campers with disabilities atop the 32-foot-high tower used for the zip line. Those unable to climb the tower are currently hoisted manually using block and tackle.
Although the zip line can be frightening, she said, the activity is liberating. “They are usually bound to a wheelchair and on a zip line they are no longer bound, they are flying through the air! Those who are watching share in that feeling of joy. It goes both ways.”
In addition to Mass, confession, and prayer, other activities included swimming, dancing, a petting zoo, a talent show, and a snow cone truck.
Knights of Columbus and other organizations assist the volunteers and the camp buddies assigned to individual campers. Knights from Hutchinson, Derby, Colwich, Wichita council 3114 and councils from St. Francis of Assisi, St. Jude, Magdalen, and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton fed campers and volunteers. Also feeding and assisting were the St. Jude Altar Society, St. Francis of Assisi’s St. Therese Little Flowers, Blessed Sacrament’s Society of St. Vincent de Paul, the Reichenberger and Dugan families, Outback Steakhouse, and Axiom Healthcare.

Georgeanna Fry, a member of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Pittsburg, stays cool, although slightly frustrated, during a game of bingo during the Holy Family Camp last month in Wichita. (Advance photo)