August 14, 2008
Campers test their Olympic might
Camp Owahta puts on its own Olympic games during camp’s final week
Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Eric Foote, 13, of team Fiji, right, plays the baseline against team Jamaica’s John Varvayanis, 13, left, Wednesday during a Camp Owahta Olympics Week street-hockey match.
SOLON — While athletes from around the world fought for gold medals in Beijing, younger competitors met at Camp Owahta this week for Olympic games of their own.
The final week of summer camp at Owahta is designated “Olympics Week,” and campers are divided into four countries to compete in sports, skits, arts and crafts and culinary arts to win the coveted gold medal.
This year, the campers — who range in age from 6 to 15 years old — represented Thailand, Fiji, Jamaica and Djibouti. They created team T-shirts, cheers and flags, and prepared traditional meals from their respective countries.
The week started Sunday with an Olympic torch ceremony, explained Lara DeSantis, Owahta’s camp director and waterfront director.
Wednesday, the approximately 120 campers met at Owahta’s pond for a swim meet.
“It’s like a gigantic beach party,” said Nick Miller, 15, of Newfield.
After the swimming events, the camp-goers split into groups to compete in five-on-five soccer tournaments and in intense street hockey matches on the basketball court.
DeSantis said the campers also compete in archery, track and cross country, and basketball.
She said Olympics Week is one of the most intense weeks of summer camp every year, and with the Summer Games being held in Beijing, there is even more buzz this time.
“That gives it an extra little glow,” DeSantis said. “It’s the most attended week of the summer every year.”
During the opening ceremonies, counselors ran the torch in and around Owahta’s large activities field, eventually lighting the Olympic flame that remains lit throughout the week.
“It’s pitch black, and the entire camp (population) is there,” Miller said. “I love the ceremony.”
Miller was one of a handful of campers training to become camp counselors. He said he has participated in the Owahta counselor training program since last year. It has been an eye-opening experience.
“Counseling isn’t a big walk in the park,” he said.
“It’s kind of hard to keep the balance between being a friend and being an authority figure,” said Rebecca McGory, 14, from Homer, who is also training to become a camp counselor.
At the end of each action-packed day, campers gathered around a fire to listen to stories from the wizened man known as The Old Grey Goose.
Goose, who said he has been a devotee of the Olympics for decades, was named a “local hero” in Lockport in 1996 and sent to carry the Olympic Torch for the Summer Games in Atlanta.
He said it was a dream come true.
“Fairy tales can come true, it can happen to you,” he sang, using the lyrics of Tony Bennett’s song, “Young at Heart.”
Goose said the Olympic Games hold valuable lessons for young people.
“These are stories that are made to be told again and again,” he said. “They (the campers) can win, even if they lose. They’re part of a team, they’re part of a country. And their team bolsters them up. When they get home, hopefully they’ll remember this.”
Camp Owahta’s Olympics Week runs through _Friday.
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