Another excellent Camp Fantastic event, hosted by Rappahannock County with the support of the Rappahannock County Lions Club, was held on Tuesday, August 14, 2018, at the 4-H Educational Center at Harmony Hollow, south of Front Royal, VA.

Each year, a different county in the area, Warren, Culpeper, etc., provides a different daily form of activity to the weeklong Specialove event.  Rappahannock County has traditionally provided an evening meal and entertainment on Tuesday.  A history of Camp Fantastic itself since its founding in 1987 will be provided by a later posting.

The sign at the entry to the 4-H Educational Center, shown below, notes the permanent nature of the relationship between 4-H Educational Center and the Special Love organization.  Note the inscription of “Home of Special Love, Inc.” at the bottom of the sign.  And this is repeated on the white “Camp Fantastic, Specialove” banner on the nearby fence.

For those new to Camp Fantastic, a recent posting on the Specialove web site tells its story.

“The magic of Camp Fantastic isn’t easily described. It’s a fun-filled week of swimming, canoeing, horseback riding, marshmallow roasting, campfire singing, pillow fighting – everything a child without cancer enjoys at a traditional camp. For a child with cancer, the experience is, well, liberating.

“I work with children who have cancer every day,” said one pediatric oncology nurse at camp. “I’m always saying, ‘No, you can’t do that.’ That’s why I love helping at Camp Fantastic because it’s the one week I get to say ‘Yes’ to these kids. Yes, have some ice cream. Yes, play soccer. Yes, stay up a little late for the dance.”

The adventure these special children discover at camp is therapeutic in so many ways. By the end of the week of Camp Fantastic, the once-timid troupe of pediatric cancer patients has built a bond as strong as any these kids will ever experience.

And so, once again, Jim Blubaugh carried out a masterful job of coordinating the many elements that go into a successful evening for children with terminal cancer.  Below, is a schedule of the tasks involved in the preparation and serving of the evening meal, and the names of those assigned to such tasks:

Attendance:  110 kids plus 190 volunteers, attendants, and visitors

Theme –  Bonkers

On duty, all day:   Jim Blubaugh, Scott Wells

1:00 – 2:30 PM:   Pick up 10 cases water from BHG Realty, load supplies and two coolers, deliver supplies to the 4-H pavilion, open pavilion, set up supplies:   Jim Blubaugh

1:00 – 2:00 PM:  Pick up 11 dozen corn from Muskrat Haven:  Frank Raiter

3:00 – 5:00 PM:  Set up decorations, prepare tables and site, clean pavilion, clean stove, clean tables and cover with table cloths, wash aluminum pans, fill coolers with ice (one for water, one for ice), shuck corn, prep kitchen, pick up utensils from 4-H Main:   Roger Andrews, Paul Bush, Larry Grove, Buck Payne

4:00 – 5:00 PM:  Pick up and deliver foods to Pavilion, 32 pizzas (Melting Pot in Front Royal) – Frank Raiter;  300 pieces chicken (Popeye’s in Royal),  (+/-10 aluminum roasting pans) –Yogi Bear;  Quiche (Griffin Front Tavern) – 

Rick Kohler;  5 pans M&C (BH&G Realty) – Rick Kohler

4:00 – finish:  Set up and turn on hot tray, cut lettuce and tomatoes for salads, make salads, prepare heating racks, fill corn pans with water, fill iced cooler with water bottles, bring corn water to boil, prepare salad, and sub tables – Joel Daczewitz, Judy Desarno , Ed Dorsey, Larry Grove, Jim Manwaring, Ross O’Donoghue, Bill Pumphrey

4:30 – 5:30 PM:   Make hoagies –  Carolyn Manwaring (Capt), Sandra Antony, Steve Carroll, Pat Dorsey, Garry Giebel

5:00 – 8:00 PM:  Photograph and chronicle – Don Audette

5:30 – 7:00  PM:  Food service — serving line #2 – Kathy Grove (Capt),

Sandra Antony, Kit Johnston, Kaye Kohler — Hoagies, Salads, and Condiments:  Carolyn Manwaring (Capt), Garry Giebel, Jim Manwaring, Bill Nenninger

5:30 – 7:00 PM:  Food supply and replenish – Joel Daczewitz (Capt), Ed Dorsey, Bill Pragluski, Rudy Seegar

Kitchen cleanup and backup; wash utensils and pans –Dennis Kelly, Buck Payne

5:45 – 7:00 PM:  Trash pickup/pavilion floor work –  Richard Antony (Capt), Rick Kohler, Dave Shiff

7:00 – 8:30 PM:  Cleanup – Everyone

Captains: Corn/Food Replenish – Joel Daczewitz, Salads and Condiments – Jim Manwaring, Hoagies – Carolyn Manwaring, Serving Line  – Kathy Grove, Cleanup/Maintenance, Richard Antony

The weather is always of some concern, as a heavy rain would certainly put a damper on the evening’s event.  As things were getting underway within the pavilion in the early afternoon, some threatening rain clouds appeared to the north, and it started to sprinkle about 2:30 PM, the rain coming down heavy at times.  The following photo shows the clouds forming before the rain.  It soon cleared, leaving behind steam rising from the hot roadway by the pavilion.

Within the pavilion, Jim Blubaugh and two charming ladies, Sandra Jenkins and Kathy Gangel, set about placing a tablecloth on one of the picnic tables.

In mid-afternoon of Tuesday, August 14, 2018, when the Lions Club set-up crews started arriving, they found the pavilion needed some work.  The kitchen as found is noted in the two photos below, showing the left and right side of the place.  The kitchen floor was pretty greasy and had to be mopped, and Buck Payne took on that task, showing flashes of his old Navy swabbie skills. A pan of watermelon and a small stack of fairly fresh donuts were evidence of a recent visit, and these were thrown out.  Picnic tables outside of the pavilion had to be carried inside.

A stroll around the area produced some interesting items related to the 4-H Recreational Center.  One was across the way from the pavilion and had the sign shown below at the head of a brick walkway, with donor bricks, leading down to a campfire site.

Through the trees, one could see some of the attending campers making use of canoes on a small lake.  The area is certainly idyllic as a site for Camp Fantastic.

The preparation of the pavilion was soon underway. Below, cleaning the pavilion floor with a bush broom is Paul Bush. In general, the pavilion needed some work before other preparation activities could begin.

A crew from the Sperryville Fire Department (SFD), consisting of Mike Leake, Chuckie Jenkins, and Richie Burke, soon arrived and immediately set about unloading decorations, including the large banner that spans the area above the serving window.  Each year, the stepladder is put in place and Richie Burke, or another SFD member, stretches out to his utmost height to staple the banner to the wall.  The photos of this effort over the years would make an interesting study, as an extreme stretch is always involved.

Shown through the serving window, and busily at work making hoagies in the kitchen, are Sandra Antony, Judy DeSarno, and Kit Johnston.

The menu for Camp Fantastic this year is shown below, following through on the theme of the event, “Bonkers,” which in itself was open to wide interpretation.  The design of the menu was created by Bill Pragluski, who has been designing our menu for years.  Incidentally, one such menu sign, resting on an easel near the first serving line, became the target for one of the toys handed out in the gift bag given to the kids.  This was a gummy-type stretchable projectile that could be flung outward to stick on a target, and then pulled back.  A few kids chose the menu sign as their target and continually pulled it off its easel.  Staff continually replaced it.

Meanwhile, in the kitchen, the production of hoagies continued.  Closest we have Sandra Antony, then Judy DeSarno, Kit Johnston, Kathy Grove, Garry Giebel, plus Carolyn Manwaring on right, all working away to produce in the end a total of 308 little hoagies.  In the background, on the left, are Bill Pragluski and Rick Kohler.

Part of the end product of all this activity is displayed on one of the serving lines, where hoagies and salads are ready for selection after the pickup of fried chicken, pizzas, quiche, etc.

Below is the scene of the two parallel serving lines.

On the far right is Marie Davis, who has attended Camp Fantastic events for 30 years, and is still arranging for pizzas from the Melting Pot.  This year she was seated at the place of honor on the head of the first serving line for her outstanding service over three decades.  A photo from last year of her helping out is shown below.

Below, in a repeated photo of the two parallel serving lines, we have a number of the servers.  From left to right:  Kathy Grove, Kit Johnston, Bill Nenninger, Ross O’Donoghue, and Bill Pragluski.  In the kitchen are Judy DeSarno, Larry Grove, Paul Bush, and Carolyn Manwaring heading out the back door.

And now here’s an example of the creativity of the Lions Club work force.  Even on a break from various tasks, a few spontaneously kept going as exemplified by Scott Wells, who co-chaired this year’s event, Ed Dorsey, Bill Pragluski, Jim Manwaring, and Bill Pumphrey.   No coaching was required.  It just happened.

And let’s not forget the band that provided the music at many decibels for the evening.  As reported by Jed Duvall, who has impeccable journalistic credentials, the band’s name is Blues Fuze, from nearby Front Royal.  The leader is Jay Powell, on the right with the bass guitar, with Gary Peacemaker, in the center on drums, and Ralph Fortune on the left, on another guitar.  There is something about their music that truly activates kids.

And let us not forget those who manned the serving lines.  Below, those on Line #1, from the right and on down the line, were:

Linda Baldwin, Richie Burke, Chuckie Jenkins, Mike Leake, Ed Dorsey, Judy DeSarno, and Kathy Grove. Joel Daczewitz in the background chats with one of the Special Love staff.

And again below, those on Serving Line #2, from the left and on down the line, were: Dave Shiff, Jan Makela, Steve Carroll, Ross O’Donoghue, Kaye Kohler, Bill Nenninger, and unseen behind the staff person and at the end of the line, Kit Johnston.

What about those unsung heroes, the Cleanup Crew?  Although many joined in, the leaders of the pack with the giant trash bags were Richard Antony and Dennis Kelly:

Then, of course, we have the illustrious organizer of the Lions Club’s participation in the 2018 Camp Fantastic event, Jim Blubaugh.  Here, he is rapidly approaching the cameraman with unknown intent, but one notes the clenched fists.