By Ranee Fladung
WELLMAN — Family is more than just those who live with you. Every summer for the past three years, Cathy Conway of St. Joseph Parish in Wellman has been teaching that sentiment to her grandchildren, during a weeklong visit on the farm south of Wellman. The week has become known as “Camp Grandma.”
The idea originated with Cathy’s aunt Mary who is now about 90 years old. Cathy’s husband, John, explained that Aunt Mary held a “Camp Grandma” in Texas and would regale Cathy with all the fun they had. It inspired Cathy to offer a similar camp experience when her grandchildren got to the right age.
John explained that Cathy grew up not knowing her first cousins; there was a disconnection, and she didn’t want that to happen to her grandkids.
Cathy said she couldn’t do the camp experience without the help of her three daughters, Collette, Brenna and Kelly. Planning starts around Christmas time. With Kelly in Chicago and Brenna in Virginia, advance planning is essential. “The hardest thing is to get schedules arranged so that everyone can be there,” said Kelly. “The date is the biggest thing.”
“It’s time for fun with the family and we look forward to it,” said Brenna, Cathy’s eldest daughter.
The week is scheduled with activities including swimming, boating, fishing, music, story time, treasure hunts, prayers and much more. This week’s “Camp Grandma” took place June 21-25.
Father Rich Adam, pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Wellman, Holy Trinity Parish in Richmond and St. Mary Parish in Riverside, joined the fun this year and read “Noah’s Ark” during story time. Photos were taken throughout the week with a different photographer each day and scrapbooks recorded the memories.
This year the eight camper cousins ranged in age from a 9-year-old to two infants.
“It’s really important for the kids to build a support network and get to know their cousins,” said Brenna.
“It’s fun seeing the kids get to know each other,” said Cathy. “I hope they can keep the close relationships.”
For anyone who wants to take on the challenge of a “Camp Grandma” she offers advice to not sweat the small stuff, but to enjoy the kids for who they are.