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Camp iRock: The Grand Finale

Camp iRock Year 3 is one for the record books. To say it was amazing is a huge understatement. Although I missed the first three weeks of Camp iRock, I made up for it, spending nearly every day thereafter hanging out in the classroom, giving away books at family nights, and even catching a Friday field trip with the Pickens gang.

This year, I really took the time to get to know our families a little better. I was amazed at the diversity of living environments. Some children lived with their mom and dad and a couple of siblings. Others were in the foster care system and in the process of being adopted.  More than a few campers were being raised by grandparents. I was humbled by the number of parents, guardians and caregivers who thanked me for Camp iRock. I thanked them right back…for allowing us to spend the best part of summer with their kids.

The final Camp iRock “Celebration” was held on Friday, July 28th and it was quite the experience.

For weeks, each of the three camp sites worked with their counselors and teachers to create a special theme that would blow everybody away.  Even though I spent most of my summer at camp, I was not privy to the insider information. Just like everyone else…I had to wait for July 28th.

The morning arrived, the buses pulled up, and the children were ushered to a private area to prepare. Families and guests were escorted to the huge gymnasium at Liberty High school to await the big entrance. All you could hear was chanting and cheering. The school was literally shaking from the adrenaline and excitement of over 200 children who had waited ALL summer for this big day.

The music started and BAM, in marched Pickens like Greek Warriors. Oh my goodness, they were fierce. They performed a cheer and we were all invited to participate. Of course, I knew all the words!

West End Elementary school representing greater Easley was next. The campers and their counselors were dressed as Minions. They were so cute. When it was time for their cheer, the Pickens campers joined in. It was loud.

Chastain Road Elementary from Liberty, was the last to enter. Two children carried a banner and the rest fell in behind them, walking in perfect unison. The music intensified and the children started running and broke through the banner. It was all very dramatic! When it was time for the Liberty cheer, all three camps, their counselors, Call Me Misters…and other “campers” like me, joined in.  It was so loud that you had to cover your ears. I am not kidding.

The campers were dismissed to prepare for “show and tell” so we could see their fabulous accomplishments through writing and projects. You could tell they were so proud of themselves. Camp iRock gave these kids a real “shot” of self-worth.

We all gathered in the auditorium for the big award presentation for excellence in reading growth and character development. It was standing room only. There were families, principals, teachers, counselors, Mister interns, representatives from the school district, YMCA and United Way of Pickens County rooting for our Camp iRock stars who grew so much as readers and people. I was most impressed and moved by their sportsmanship. It didn’t matter who won, they cheered for their classmates. It’s a lesson we all need to remember!

The day concluded with field day games and a hot dog lunch lovingly grilled by Mr. Shipman and Mrs. Thomas whose faces were so red, I feared they would explode from the heat! I stayed around to help serve and that line never seemed to end.

It was finally time to board the buses and head back to their schools. In the past, I had been told that there were lots of tears, but I had never personally witnessed it…until this year. It was so SAD and REALLY hard to watch. Everybody was crying including the counselors and children. There were lots of group hugs.

I want to send a huge “shout out” and thank you to everyone who invested in these striving readers. From donors and funders to teachers and counselors, YOU have made a difference in the life of a child.  They will never forget you and neither will I.