Moms of Madison host summer camp for local kids
story by isabela rzeznik
photos by jesse walker and contributed
This is not an Erin Spinks thing,” said Erin Spinks, organizer of the Moms of Madison Summer Camp. Indeed, the sense of community is palpable at Heritage Park on a cloudy, muggy Tuesday morning. The group meets once a week, on Tuesdays, generally from 10a.m.-12p.m., though occasionally later. There was an ease to moving from playtime mode into actual camp activities, with everyone, from mom to child, pitching in and cooperating. The camp is structured but not rigid so children can opt out of any games or other goings-on if overwhelmed. The moms and kids all play together.
Spinks started Tea Time Friends for a group of her daughter’s friends from preschool and she wanted to continue the fun over the summer. Spinks pulled together a group of teachers and leaders in order to organize an appropriate summertime endeavor. The very first Tuesday of the camp, about 70 kids showed up. The camp consists of the moms and their children dividing up into groups by age. The two hour camp starts off with icebreakers for any new arrivals, teaching a memory verse, then singing summer camp chants and other songs and playing games. Towards the end of the two hours, there is always a water game to stay cool. Of course, there is a snack time break. One mom, Jacqueline Whetzel, described the camp as a “guaranteed playdate.” Being a part of the camp is free, with everything being on volunteer basis. Spinks started a Facebook page for the group, which has attracted over 200 likes and she and Amy Butler, a camp leader and mom, post there often.
The moms that attend the camp are always impressed with Spinks’ creativity, especially when it comes to incorporating the memory verse into games. When the saying for the Orchard Grove camp was “God saves,” one of the games involved the kids getting a Lifesavers candy hooked onto a dry spaghetti noodle and carrying it, no hands allowed and using their mouths, to a plate. The biblical element is very important to the other moms, since Spinks wants to share the Lord with the children as well as play. Even the treasure hunt and whipped cream covered lifesavers were themed the day’s memory verse: "Seek the Lord while He may be found; call on His name," Isaiah 55:6. There are also exercise driven games, such as when the children were asked to take off their shoes, run across a field to put them in a bucket, run back, then run again to find and put on their shoes again.
Spinks explained that many of her ideas for camp come from the blogs she follows, Pinterest as well as Facebook. As a former health and P.E. teacher, she understands how to create “organized chaos” for the children and their moms as well as using the resources at her disposal. She also gains inspiration from the children and the other moms. In fact, she gets quite bit on encouragement and help from the other moms and Spinks is grateful to all of them for their support, assistance and time. "Motherhood is our ministry," said Erin Spinks.
Thursdays are dedicated to service, since Spinks desires to give other children the same experience her children have. She goes, with other moms and children, to the Orchard Grove apartment complex at 12:30p.m. and shares her camp with the children there. Spinks first heard about Orchard Grove when she volunteered to serve breakfast there and decided to return to do a camp with them since the children there would be unable to get to Heritage Park. Since beginning the camp, she has formed bonds with the children and refers to them as her friends. Spink and the other moms make an effort to bring their own children as well. “I’m not there because I feel that they need me. I just want to invest in all children and pour joy into them like I do my own kids,” said Spinks.
"I think it's a wonderful program," said Tyrone Heard, father of three children that are a part of the camp, 2-year-old Taraji, 4-year-old Tyra and 7-year-old Quaterrian. He watched them make play-dough on a Thursday, supervised by a team of mothers. Her passion has inspired other mothers to come out and volunteer their time, becoming an efficient team. "Her determination to make a difference will make you want to come and be a part, " said Jennifer Breedlove, a camp leader and mom, of Spinks. It is clear that the children of Orchard Grove look forward to Thursdays and have fun playing the different games that Spinks comes up with.
Spinks has four children, Wyatt, 9, Rhett, 7, Shep, 5, and Mae, 4 and is a very dedicated to spending time with them. She likes to help her kids develop their bodies and minds, to introduce them to new experiences and challenges, and perhaps most important, to bond with them as they utterly understand the joy she takes in their engagement with the world. The summer camp is an opportunity for mothers to have a quality kid time alongside their children. Of course, the children also enjoy being able to interact with one another.
Though the summer camp will end when the school year begins, Spinks plans to continue working with the children from Orchard Grove.
Printed in the August 2, 2012 edition.