Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Deep into the Allegheny Mountains of Virginia

We traveled across Virginia from the Tidewater to the Allegheny Mountains west of Roanoke on Wednesday, seeking an Operation Purple group that was tucked into a narrow valley at a place called Camp Easter Seals. The location was beautifully situated between steep ridges, and characterized by green pastures and mixed hardwoods bordering the clear waters of Craig's Creek. It was a classic camp setting, and reminded us of the camps of our own youth… places where kids could enjoy the simple summertime activities that have been sources of entertainment for generations: swimming, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, tether ball, and such. There was neither cell phone nor Internet connectivity, and there weren’t any electronic games or mp3 ear buds in sight. It was pretty isolated and definitely off the modern telecommunications and electronic entertainment grid… partly due to the remoteness and partly due to a deliberate decision to focus on enjoyment of outdoor activities. We were impressed with the group’s “esprit de corps,” for in the short time they had been together, a sense of community was clearly present. Evidence of this was the group singing, playfulness, and general camaraderie at mealtimes and flagraising. It was evident also during our presentations on Thursday, as we engaged nearly 120 campers and staff in “Step on it” and “What principle am I?” and regaled them with bear canister and poop tube stories.

For most of the summer, Camp Easter Seals hosts kids with various disabilities, but they also host two one-week Operation Purple camps for kids from military families. The camps are sponsored by the National Military Family Association, and we have found our visits to the Operation Purple groups to be both fun and gratifying. The kids were great, and we got lots of photos of them with our ever-popular Bigfoot feet.

The camp reminded us of our years living in nearby Blacksburg when we were in graduate school at Virginia Tech, and we look forward to our return here next week.

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