A tradition continues

Williamstown summer camp surprises campers with glow-in-the-dark miniature golf during the final week of camp

Hole six of the Camp Squankum glow-in-the-dark mini golf course featured hot air balloons and regular balloons. (Anthony J. Mazziotti III/The Sun)

In each of the past two years, director of activities for Camp Squankum, Shannon Grim, has planned a surprise for close to 200 campers that is unveiled on the last week of camp. This year’s surprise lived up to the expectation set two years ago.

In 2017, Grim made a life-sized Candy Land game for the campers. In 2018, she made a glow-in-the-dark laser tag arena. For 2019, she created a nine-hole, glow-in-the-dark mini golf course on par with something you would see on the Ocean City boardwalk. Holes one through three were an underwater theme, holes four through six were a wind theme, and holes seven through nine were a fire theme.

Creating a mini golf course for the campers was an idea she and a former camp employee came up with two years ago. The two wanted to implement it last year but realized they needed another year to prepare for it.

“I think the campers’ reaction when they first see it is the best part,” Grim said. “Watching them go through and play is awesome, it’s so rewarding. We work really hard as a staff to make sure our campers have the best summer possible, but seeing this at the end is the icing on the cake.”

Grim added the parents even got in on the action after the course was unveiled.

“We got a lot of positive feedback,” she said. “Our counselors feel like they’re being rewarded because of how much fun the kids are having.”

Putting the kids first and creating a fun atmosphere for the campers is part of what makes the camp so successful.

“I love playing sports and being with my friends and the counselors here, they do everything great,” camper LJ McGee said.

“I love the counselors and how they love everything about what they get to do. I want to do that next year, hopefully,” camper Haley Hill added.

McGee, Hill and Trevor Robinson agreed the glow-in-the-dark mini golf was a fun addition to the camp.

“I think this is my favorite of all three,” McGee said, who’s seen all three surprises to date. “I think they did a great job in the big gym.”

The fun culture of camp is a two-way street. The counselors get just as much out of it as the campers themselves. Just ask Damon Redden, the director of counselors in training. Redden just completed his 12th year with the camp.

“I love it,” he said. “I see the joy the kids have, I like working with the other counselors, they’ve been here as long as I have. I see how much the kids enjoy it and it keeps bringing me back.”

What Redden thinks makes the camp special is its ability to think outside the box, which is something Grim has worked diligently on for the past three years. This summer, her 10th with Camp Squankum, marks the final summer she will work at camp. The glow-in-the-dark mini golf was her swan song.

In her final act, she did more than work with her team of five counselors, she recruited the entire staff to construct the mini golf course. As if that weren’t enough, friends and family members of counselors pitched in, too.

“It was fun for my last project to have everybody help,” she said.

Though she won’t be at Camp Squankum for summer 2020 she said the surprise tradition will live on.

“They already started brainstorming ideas for next year,” Grim said. “Camp will live up to the standard it’s always been held at.”