This past summer I had the privilege of being the guest author at Lutheran Outdoor Ministries Reading Camp. There were three different camps conducted that met at various locations in Indiana. I was contacted by Cleo Swager, the director of the program for at risk readers. These students struggle with reading and language, because of learning issues, or geographical relocation or having English as a second language. These children’s ages range from 8-13yrs, the perfect age range for Skunk-Guy readers, so when I was offered the chance, I jumped at it.
I didn’t know exactly what to expect when I arrived at my first camp. I was thinking troubled readers, probably a lot of wild and unruly kids with ADHD overload. I couldn’t have been more wrong. These kids were great. The staff at the camp were all strong leaders and well organized, they led and directed the kids in every activity. Within the boundaries that they established and enforced, the children were having the time of their lives. Someone once pointed out to me that “Creativity without Boundaries is Chaos” This was a perfect example of how boundaries made a strong positive difference in children’s lives.
One young girl came up to me, when I first arrived, and wanted to show me the bracelet that she was making. I was told by one of the camp teachers, that the year before she was very shy and never spoke or looked at anyone, but here a year later, she was voluntarily showing me the cords she was weaving together.
When the time came to give my presentation, I explained how I dreamt up the idea of “Skunk-Guy” and we had a very lively discussion on what it is exactly that makes a Superhero; a bona- fide Superhero. Hey, listen, there are strict ground rules and they know them. Superheroes are a big part of our cultural mythos.
On my second and third trip I was accompanied by my 11- year- old daughter, Josette. It proved to be a nice Father/Daughter outing, and she volunteered to don the official Skunk-Guy suit. The kids loved it. Although the suit has seen better days and was rather ratty in spots, to the kids it was amazing, and Josette modeled it with flair.
I read to the campers from the first” Skunk-Guy” book (Norman & The Stinking Space Goo), illustrating in an abridged telling, the origin story of how fourteen- year- old Norman Flinch became “The Stinking Stalker.” They seemed to hang on every word. Afterwards, many suggestions were made, as to the kind of super-villains they thought he should encounter. They were each given an autographed copy of “Skunk-Guy’s” second book (The Sensational Slime Saga).
The staff, that I spent time with, were all warm and wonderful. One of them even sacrificed his bed on my first visit so that I would have a place to lay my head. I’ve been tutored in the fine art of playing “Euchre” as well. I have the greatest admiration for the number of volunteers and paid staff, who spend a week of their time, helping young kids, that are struggling with something as simple as reading. They are reaching out to their community. They are helping kids who come from various backgrounds, many different religious affiliations, with the cost for each child completely covered. Their whole intent is to help kids that are struggling. That is a prime example of being a” light to the world”. I am very proud to have been a part of it.