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Hope for the Holidays    Printer friendly page

Hosting a family gathering at camp

by Brenda Jank

The holiday season was fast approaching. My grins were interspersed with too many groans. It was our turn to host the Jank family Thanksgiving gathering. Even with families staying at hotels, hosting this crew—23 people from four states—all weekend is an overwhelming task.

One evening, my husband, Tim, hit upon an intriguing idea. “What’s the name of that camp we pass on Route 34? I wonder if it’s open in the winter? You might try calling.”

“I don’t know, Tim. I can’t imagine Grandma crawling into a sleeping bag.”

“Oh, come on. It won’t hurt to call.”

The next day my reluctance quickly melted away. The camp’s rental rates were reasonable, and some of the sleeping arrangements included bedding. Grandma wouldn’t have to crawl into a bunk bed, either! We’d have access to a fireplace, a rec room with Ping-Pong and Air Hockey, and a place to go sledding if there was snow. I was sold.

Tim and I pitched the idea to our family. Some were hesitant. Wouldn’t we miss the coziness of a home? But eventually, all agreed to give it a try.

The camp had a retreat center, which allowed us to rent a kitchen. With our family of cooks, this was important. No one wanted to miss out on Uncle Jeff’s sweet potatoes and Grandma’s apple pie.

When I signed the contract, I breathed a sigh of relief. The extra burden of hosting the event was off my shoulders, and our weekend was a great success. During our last meal together, we unanimously decided to enjoy our next Thanksgiving at camp.

“This was awesome!” 14-year-old Aaron said. Aunt Paula and Grandpa agreed. Going to camp had allowed us to enjoy more time for family and fun than we had ever experienced.

The fireplace was a hit—especially for roasting marshmallows. Pam enjoyed being able to put her kids to bed at a decent hour without having to head back to a hotel. The board-game players didn’t have to pack up every time a meal was served. And the kids, free from the constant allure of video games, had a place to run and explore. The televised football games were a bit fuzzy, but we were still able to cheer on our favorite teams.

If you think this might work for your next family gathering, consider these tips:

• Locate a facility through CCCA’s free searchable database of more than 1,000 member facilities at

• Contact the camp or conference center 6 to 12 months in advance to determine housing arrangements, services, and prices.

• Visit the property to get a feel for the facilities.

• Delegate the responsibilities of snacks, kids’ activities, and entertainment.

Going away to a camp or retreat center to celebrate can allow the best parts of your extended-family life to surface and minimize those aspects that grate on everyone’s nerves.

Move over, marshmallows; next year we’re having s’mores.

Brenda and her family have enjoyed six family get-togethers at various retreat centers across the Midwest. When the Jank family isn’t traipsing around the country, they call Indiana home.

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