From the “Chicken Dance” to the “Electric Slide”, the staff of Camp UNITE wowed campers at University of the Cumberlands’ O. Wayne Rollins Center with an opening number that may not have made it on Broadway, but would have no doubt been a hit in Vaudeville.
Camp directors donned costumes ranging from Cyndi Lauper to Tina Turner and one group even did their best impression of The Village People, all in an attempt to get over 150 campers fired up.
Unite Executive Director Karen Engle, who danced to “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”, said after the performance that the goal was to get the children excited about what was about to happen over the next four days and the opening dance fiasco is what they came up with.
“We wanted the kids to understand, so many of them come in scared or apprehensive right off the bat, we just wanted to put that to the side and say look, we are not afraid to laugh at ourselves, so they should have fun and laugh with us,” Engle said. “We just wanted to open up with something they could laugh at really enjoy. We had a staff meeting and Carlos Cameron showed me a video of something like this and said we should do this instead of having some boring speaker, so we went with it.
“From that point, we all went to Goodwill and to flea markets and yard sales and got some clothes to dress up in,” she added. “I think it was fun and everyone really had a good time with it.”
As far as the turnout, Engle said she was impressed, especially considering the time of year and with the start of the new school year slowly closing in on students.
“This is a great crowd and we are expecting a little over 175 kids,” Engle said. “You have school getting ready to start next week, so the numbers are good and we actually had a waiting list for this camp and some people had to back out, so we were able to get everyone in here that wanted to come and put in an application.
“Considering that, we are really excited and our dream is to have camps going all summer long where kids can have activities all summer long,” she added.
Though dancing and a variety of music took center stage on opening day, Engle said there are lessons to be taught and messages to be sent out to all those in attendance. However, all of those will have a common factor, which will be staying positive.
“Everything we do is going to have a positive message, no matter what,” she said. “We want to give them plenty to carry with them, but we want everyone to stay positive in the fight against drugs.
“For example, we have a ex-NFL player coming that will talk about saying never instead of saying no, so we want to let them know these things liking not using drugs, are possible to accomplish,” she added. “The main thing is to stay positive and let the kids enjoy themselves while they learn.”
Activities will continue through Friday, with things wrapping up Friday afternoon
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