Children went on a treasure hunt at St. William the Abbot School earlier this month, and what they found was an encouraging message.
The parish hosted its annual vacation Bible school from Aug. 4-15. While the change from July to August kept enrollment down, energy levels remained high among both campers and counselors.
Sister Meghan McArdle, who has directed the program since 2001, said there were 46 participants the first week, and 36 the second week, with many attending the full program. It was open to children entering pre-K through fifth-grade, and held on weekday mornings at the parish school.
McArdle said it was a good mix of children who attend St. William the Abbot School and those in public schools, giving them a chance to make new friends.
Each morning, everyone got together in the gymnasium to go over the daily message and Bible passage. They would gather again shortly before noon for songs and prayers. In between, the groups rotated among different activities including arts and crafts, music, games and Bible study.
The goal of the program, McArdle said, was to have children understand that God loves them, and to learn how to treat each other with respect.
Katie Moulder, 10, who attends St. William the Abbot School, said she looks forward to vacation Bible school every summer. “I love this program,” she said. “It’s so much fun. In the beginning of the year, I can’t wait for the summer.”
Among her favorite activities were arts and crafts, and listening to Bible stories and acting them out. Moulder will be a fifth-grader at the school in the fall, so this was her last year attending the camp but she would like to return as a counselor in the future.
This year, there were 70 volunteer counselors, ranging from seventh-graders to college students. “We’re very fortunate that the volunteers are very good,” McArdle said. “Most of the volunteers went through the Bible school themselves.”
That’s the case for Deirde Muirhead, 17, who just graduated from Seaford High School and will attend Bentley University. As a volunteer, she would supervise the children, get them to their daily activities and make sure they were having fun. She also planned theme days.
“We’re just trying to make it a program where they know they’re safe and God loves them,” she said.
Muirhead said she enjoyed her time with the children in the classroom, as well as the music classes. The timing of the program, a few hours each morning, was just right, she added.
The experience to lead the children is one she valued. “It’s rewarding because I see the smiles on the kids’ faces when they come here every morning,” she said. “When they’re happy, that makes me happy because I know I did my job.”
Diana Buehler, of Farmingdale, had three grandchildren attend the program for the first time. They attended only the second week, but she said they had so much fun they wished they went for both.
The program was all about fun, and that’s what art teacher Chrissy Lorusso Shelley’s goal was every day, as she had the children make sun catchers, stained glass windows from tissue paper and items they would find on a beach from clay. It all tied into this year’s theme, “Son Treasure Island.”
“We do arts and crafts to engage their creativity,” she said, “and we try to reinforce the themes of the camp or of the Bible story.”
Shelley got involved because she is a colleague of McArdle’s at Our Lady of Mercy Academy.
McArdle, of Seaford, said she doesn’t know how long vacation Bible school has been going on a St. William the Abbot, but it at least dates back to her days as a student. “It’s great to be part of it,” she said.