Jul 22, 2014

Squiturles, piggaroos, other ‘weird animals’ appear at vacation Bible camp



Story and photos by Julie Beaulieu

EAST LONGMEADOW – Squiturles, piggaroos, peacrocks, plattipines, guerrillians, tigaraffes, pandiflies, elephunnies and a bearded dragon all gathered last week for “Weird Animals Vacation Bible Camp” at St. Michael Parish here.

Held in the parish social center for the week of July 14-18, the “Weird Animals” camp hosted more than 100 children. The theme, featuring the strangely named creatures, was meant to convey that each person is unique in the eyes of God, according to Rose Stella, director of religious education at St. Michael Parish.

“We have 136 children, ages four through 11, and we have 81 volunteers, ages 12 through, I’ll say, 80-something,” Stella told iobserve. “I think that’s what makes our camp so atypical and so beautiful is the teen volunteers. Honestly, I’ve never seen such a group of generous children.”

Stella has been running the vacation Bible camp for the past nine years.

“It’s all about the campers for them (the teens). I think they get as much out of it as the campers because they’re dancing and they’re participating,” said Stella.

“We have a couple of high school guys who just said this morning, ‘We plan our vacation around this,’” noted Stella.

She said that senior citizen volunteers staff the snack area every year. “They come in costume oftentimes. It gets to be that beautiful intergenerational mix. They love seeing the kids, and the kids love seeing them,” Stella told iobserve.

Annalisa Fonte and April Zieba, both age 8, are best friends. They have been attending the camp since they were 4 years old.

“I’ve been here since preschool,” said Fonte, “and I keep coming back because I love the church that we go to and I love how they set it up,”

As participants prepared for a talent show, Zieba added, “I like the music the best and it’s fun. We’re singing, ‘All Around the World,’ and, ‘You Are Good,’” she told iobserve.

Other activities included performing arts, water play, arts and crafts, science and Bible story time, which was held in a decorated treehouse room.

On Thursday, children got the chance to observe and visit with Horatio, the bearded dragon, who is owned by a teen parishioner of St. Michael Parish. The young boys especially liked watching Horatio eat his favorite treat: crickets.

For information on next year’s camp, call the parish at 413-525-4253.

A video version of this story will be featured on an upcoming edition of “Real to Reel,” the Diocese of Springfield’s weekly televised news magazine that airs Saturday evenings at 7 on WWLP-22NEWS.