The story of our joint Spring Camp Program with our FNE 1st North Star and our 1st Four Arrows Timber Wolf Den’s At Camp Turner – USA – June 1/2/3 2012
The makings of this visit started through an e mail from Chris Hasson – the now Akela and Group Leader of the 1st North Star FNE Group in the winter of 2011 asking for some information about our FNE movement. This lead to two visits by the FNE General Commissioner Paul Ritchi to the Philadelphia area first to hold an information session for potentially interested parents and their children in May of 2011 and then in November of 2011 to formally invest the new Akela / Group leader along with the entire 1st North Star leadership team (some 8 leaders strong) into our FNE/FSE movement. At that point planning started for our first ever joint camp that picked up speed and excitement as the big day drew closer…. so here is our story..
Friday June 1 2012
The day started off surprisingly dark and gloomy with massive amounts of rain falling, downed power lines, flooding at Union Station, and closed sections of the Toronto subway due to water making it to the track level along with multiple street light failures further slowing down typically heavy Friday evening traffic in and out of the City of Toronto.
In spite of the extreme weather all 44 timber wolves and 10 leaders made the bus with a delay in the departure time of only 30 minutes due to difficulty experienced by a number of our timber wolves and their parents who had been frantically working to reach our departure point with traffic conditions worse than normal due to the block upon blocks of stoplight outages along with accidents due to the extreme weather.
The rain even ceased long enough for us to load the bulk of the gear into the bus before it started up again. By 6.00 pm we waved bye to the parents and started our trek to the USA. We elected to take the express toll way to save time… only to encounter a rolled over tractor trailer that closed the highway forcing us off the highway and down another route to bypass the accident before rejoining the 407 for our continued trek towards the border crossing while driving through continued heavy winds and rain fall. Did our timber wolves notice… nope… as they happily chatted amongst themselves, watched movies, joined us in practicing songs for Mass and singing the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.
By 8.45 pm we stopped off for dinner just short of the US border… the timber wolves happily piled off the bus just as the rained stopped for a short time to spend their dollars on a dinner of their choice… the most popular choice… KFC! 40 minutes later we were back on the road now rapidly approaching the border crossing… we cheered as we left Canada and crossed into the USA with this being a first entry into the USA for many of our timber wolves… and as we approached the border chekc points…. YES… looking ahead we could see no back up with only a few cars and busses ahead of us! Unfortunately our joy would be short lived. As we entered the first check point the bus was scanned and X-rayed to be sure that nothing dangerous was entering into the USA… we were then instructed and go and wait at a staging area for further screening and inspection… and wait we did… for almost 90 minutes….
At long last we were dispatched to the inspection bus bay… on arrival we all had to get off the bus with our passports in hand to be screened on an individual basis… those timber wolves holding non-Canadian passports had to obtain a special entry card (at $8 USD each) and answer a series of questions (which most did not understand) and then sign a card to declare the information to be true… yes even an 8 year old had to sign the card. The timber wolves behaved very well, always polite and cooperative even as the evening got later and later…. And still the rain fell and the wind blew…
During our final leg to Camp Turner the bus became quiet as the ever popular movie Mr. Bean goes on Holiday came to an end… we exchanged text messages back and forth with our American brothers to inform them of our progress and expected time of arrival… we finally arrived at Camp Turner at 12.45 a.m.!
As our timber wolves piled off the bus we quickly unloaded the baggage, (yes the rain had stopped and the winds where now calm for our arrival!) and dragged our tired bodies off to our cabins… within 30 minutes all where in bed and asleep awaiting the exciting morning that would come in only a few short hours…
Saturday June 2 2012
Rise and shine after a short but comfortable sleep as our collective timber wolves got up excited as to what the day would offer us, put on their uniforms and headed off to seek out either their brother or sister timber wolves from the USA or Canada. They would not have to wait long… Canadian timber wolves gathering outside their cabins soon spotted six of their American brothers running towards them to say hello… the smiles on their faces, their extension of hands to shake and say hello, quickly saluting each other all without any direction or engagement of any adult leaders was such a wonderful sight to see. The timber wolves where soon exchanging names and started to tell excited stories about each other’s joy and love of their experience as an FNE/FSE timber wolf. This was just the start of what would prove to be a quick meld into one happy timber wolf family regardless of country or culture… the timber wolf pledge is surely true … we are the same blood you and I!
We gathered into the Camp Turner large dining hall for more formal introductions as leaders introduced themselves by their jungle names to the 59 timber wolves and 3 1st North Star Otters present… there was much excitement as the timber wolves realized that it is true… that we share the same uniform, we have the same badges, handbook and more.
08.00 a. m.
From there we prepared ourselves for Holy Mass at the very beautiful Our Lady of Peace, held an opening prayer of thanksgiving and boarded our bus and vehicles for the trek to church.
What a wonderful way to start off our first ever joint camp by praying together as one family, by worshiping together and sharing our Catholic faith, by receiving the Eucharist – Jesus himself.
This was a private Mass for all of our timber wolves and their leaders… 3 of our timber wolves served Mass and another did the first reading and Responsorial Psalm. The local Pastor Father Melfi went out of his way to make this celebration possible especially given his busy day that included celebrating a funeral mass and attending the Ordination of 3 new priests to the Diocese of Buffalo.
Our timber wolves sang (it has been said… singing is like praying twice… and they sang so well with passion and love in their hearts). We sang:
· Immaculate Mary (During preparation of the gifts)
· Amazing Grace (closing song)
· Be not afraid (opening song)
· Take and Eat (after Holy Communion)
Holy communion was extra special with our timber wolves able to use the altar railings to kneel side by side to receive our Lord on our tongues.. a very special and loving way to receive our Lord before returning to our seats to further kneel and give thanks to the Lord for coming to us through the Sacrament of Communion – thank you Lord!
At the end of Mass we all participated in Eucharist Adoration that included singing the Chaplet of Divine Mercy and Tantum ergo, O Salutaris. The silence, the attention, the love for our Lord demonstrated by our timber wolves was truly inspiring for us adults… as Jesus said… one must become like little children in order to be able to enter through the gates of heaven. Our timber wolves called out to the Lord by thanking him for many things including…
· For my parents and family
· For dying on the cross for us
· For confession
· For mass
· For our FNE movement both in the USA and Canada
· For his Mercy and his Love
· For our health
After a beautiful Adoration where one leader shared his story with Akela how the Lord reached out and touched him in a very special way, how he knew for a brief moment how much the Lord loves him and all of us his children…we returned to camp for a hot and plentiful breakfast prepared for us by the Camp Turner Staff. The timber wolves and leaders really ate well!
Now a really exciting event would take place… our first ever joint timber wolf howl followed by the timber wolf promise and songs… plus the raising of our country flags and national anthems – O Say Can You See and O Canada our home and native land...sung with love and respect by all present be we American or Canadian it mattered not. It was a truly fulfilling and rewarding experience! We followed the national anthems with Hail Holy Queen as we entrust our respective movements to the care and protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary Mother of God.
Akela Chris Hasson from the 1st North Start group made a presentation to Paul Ritchi the FNE General Commissioner of a special banner hand made as a thank you to their Canadian brothers who worked diligently to help our first ever group in the USA start up successfully. This banner holds a number of quotes from St. Peter our Pope and they are as follows:
- Honour all men
- Love the brotherhood
- Fear God
- Honour the King
This is a beautiful gift made with love that we in Canada will treasure and proudly display wherever we set up a display or promotion. Thank you 1st North Star group and thank you most especially Dani Hasson the wife of Akela Chris who undertook this fine detailed work by hand – a true work of love!
Kaa now challenged our timber wolves to undertake a scavenger hunt like none others… to create a duplicate of a human skeleton using natural products found in the wild… the timber wolves took to the project with much excitement and determination to do the best job possible… all working together with the American and Canadian timber wolves being merged into shared sixes… they all demonstrated mutual respect and love for each other by happily designing and locating and placing the various natural products to produce some very exciting replicas of the human skeleton. The girl timber wolves found some wild flowers to decorate their handiwork with.
Our boy timber wolves undertook with great excitement and energy the well-known boyhood game of “Capture the Flag” together they chased each other throughout the wide expanse of camp… happily accepting capture after a good effort or celebrating a job well done as a team to successfully capture the opponents flag truly together as one timber wolf family. The leaders marvelled as to their conduct remarking that if we didn’t know any better one would have thought that these timber wolves have been playing and working together for many months. What a true demonstration of sisterhood or brotherhood!
Our Girl timber wolves gathered together to embark on a neat craft organized by Akela Karen that involved some fine needle work…that required patience, team work, and singular focus with results that the timber wolves where truly enthralled and excited about.
Before we knew it the time had come to break from our busy activities (on a day that should have been overcast with rain and cool that turned out to be sunny, dry and warm… thank you Lord!) Together we prayed the De Angelis before enjoying another excellent meal lovingly prepared by the staff of Camp Turner. The boys where particularly hungry after all that running around… hold on there… as leaders we know… our boys always seem to be either hungry or thirsty…
Now for the great adventure as we boarded our bus and vehicles for a drive to the other end of the great Allegheny park to explore what is known as the “Flat Rocks” a series of rocks that the timber wolves could climb over… and that they did with great delight, excitement and joy. Some of the timber wolves have no fear… the leaders carefully monitored each timber wolf to ensure that no undue risks would be undertaken.
Their excitement was great as we ran, climbed, explored the different formations while proudly carrying our FSE flag, the flag of our collective larger family… a good number of the public in the area stopped to marvel the timber wolves in action, asking questions about our movement, admiring how sharp our youth look in their uniforms and asking us about the beautiful and unique flag (FSE) that we carried throughout our exploratory mission.
We did stop long enough as a group on top of a large rock to make a craft entitled “the keys to heaven” where the timber wolves learned more about how one needs to prepare oneself to enter through the gates of heaven. They proudly brought home their first key of knowledge with others to follow upon our return to our respective homes.
Time to return to camp came all too soon but we have much more to accomplish.
Mang and Ko devised a special game with cards to each timber wolf that required them to go out amongst their brothers and sisters to discover things that they had in common in the form of shared hobbies, birth months, ages, and more… they happily dove into the activity with a mass of timber wolves happily exchanging stories and experiences with one another further cementing an excellent sense of brother and sisterhood within the FNE/FSE family. The leaders observed much laughter, and pats on the back for mutual encouragement and recognition. Our one happy family continues to grow and prosper so much so that the girls exchanged contact information and shared cabins for the evening so that they could further develop and cement their friendships.
This was further followed by a bible quiz… to test the knowledge of the timber wolves as to key aspects of our faith…some 25 questions were asked… a few timber wolves got 24 out of 25 correct with most getting 20 or more answers correct – quite a feat…prizes in the form of St. Christopher medals and bracelets with WWJD (what would Jesus do) where then quickly awarded to the excited winners.
Examples of questions included…. What was the first sin ever committed by mankind… by whom and where? In what town was Jesus born in? Jesus was born where because what was full? What is the name of the only prayer that Jesus taught his disciples and thus by extension us?
Before dinner we all gathered together to participate in the Promise Badge ceremony for two girl timber wolves… one from Canada and one from the USA. The look on their faces, the joy of the ceremony, the reaction and awe from the timber wolves watching, the intensity of the timber wolf howl that followed said it all… this was truly a special moment when we all rejoiced in the welcoming of two new timber wolves into their respective dens! It was awesome as the photo’s attest to.
Together we sat down for a marvellous feast of BBQ chicken prepared for us by the Camp Staff on an outdoor BBQ… the meal was awesome… they cooked extra chicken in case the timber wolves would be hungry… this may not come as a surprise to you but every ounce of the BBQ chicken was consumed… not a drop of food was wasted, a great meal for us all.
We then headed outdoors for an evening walk through the grounds together, to look see and appreciate nature and gather some wood for the evening campfire while others play volley ball, basketball, badminton or a wide range of other outdoor games. Not one timber wolf was left out or excluded… each gathered together with new found friends to play together… we as leaders looked on with a sense of peace as we listened to the laughter, shouts of joy, happy chatter, running just because you can and you are a kid… as the sun started to sink into the evening sky…
Unfortunately the sky did cloud over and just as we were ready to start our evening camp fire the skies opened and the rain poured down forcing us indoors… but why let a little rain get in the way… we carried on as planned anyway!
We held our first ever joint Camp Fire program lead by Kaa (Canada) and what a campfire it was… songs, skits, cheers, stories, jokes and more. Our timber wolves sang like they have never before… and laughed long and hard… it was perhaps one of the better campfires that we have experienced in a long time. Well done Kaa and to all of the participants….
Our General Commissioner then shared with the timber wolves an exciting jungle story… the wolves sat motionless while they listened to the adventures of Mowgli… jumped in fright what a sudden unexpected roar from another animal in the jungle could be heard, laughed themselves to tears as Mowgli found himself in trouble and how he first tried to get out of it…
Now as our evening drew to a close we formed a large circle and together prayed our evening Rosary… the timber wolves had many many prayer intentions for the evening living Rosary so many that it took almost 15 minutes to hear them all… for my family, for the suffering souls in purgatory, for those who do not believe in God, for our brothers and sisters in Europe, for the protection of our movement and youth, for the sick, for the homeless, for the people of Syria and North Korea, for peace, for our Holy Father the Pope, for our respective Archbishop’s and much more. They truly prayed from their hearts! We are sure that the Lord and our Mother Mary was happy with their sincere efforts. We concluded our evening prayers with the singing of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy… our timber wolves once again sang from their little hearts… it was a truly moving experience for all involved – thank you Lord for all that you have done and continue to do for us… as the timber wolves chant at the end of all their prayers… I love you Jesus, I love you Jesus, I love you Jesus! We could almost hear the Lord say… my children – I love you more then you could ever imagine or understand, you have made me very happy!
We dragged ourselves happy but tired to the showers then into PJ’s and off to a well-earned rest. Akela Chris took part in his first podcast as to his experiences and that of his group in our FNE/FSE family. Listen here <link to follow>
Sunday June 3 2012
Before we knew it is was morning, time to get up and battle the rain that had yet once again returned… our timber wolves hardly noticed, get dressed and ready for Sunday morning Mass plus packing up our belongings.
We departed camp to go to Mass starting at 8.30 am once again at the beautiful Our Lady Parish church. Father reserved the front row seats for our timber wolves and leaders. The Mass was truly beautiful with a fitting homily. Father was so kind as to accommodate our request to allow our timber wolves to receive Jesus in Holy Communion at the Altar railings on our knees on our tongues after the regular parishioners had received their communion… this was a treasure that we all appreciate.
We returned to Camp Turner located in the beautiful New York State Allegany State Park located south east of Buffalo for yet another hearty and fulfilling breakfast!
Soon noon approached… we gathered ourselves together, cleaned up the camp well as every FNE member would and then held joyful and vibrant closing ceremonies including the Timber Wolf Howl before taking our last group photo!
Our timber wolves and leaders where sad that our weekend had to end but we are already planning our next joint get together with a number of our 1st North Star brother timber wolves and leaders joining us for summer camp! Our girl timber wolves are already exploring potential joint activities in the months to come.
We are returned as a stronger and more vibrant movement determined to do all that we can to help grow our respective movements, to bring the awesome and excellent FSE program to more boys, girls, families, parishes and schools both in the USA and here in Canada!
Our USA brother and sisters post: link
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