A third of the campers at Philadelphia Youth Camp 2017 gathered in the shade by the east end of the John Amos Field House on Tuesday evening, July 18, awaiting instruction for Wacky Games. Dorms 6B, 5B, 6G, and 5G remained almost entirely segregated by gender as is the awkward teenage custom.
Led by softball instructors Tyler Verbout and Justice Brown, basketball assistant instructors Brett Roberts and Eva Hochstetler, and a host of other workers who preferred to spend the evening chilling by the pool, the blue boys of 6B intermingled with the light gray fellows of 5B and headed toward the grassy knoll to the north of the field house. Awaiting them were a tiny volleyball net and a small white circle painted in the grass.
Dylan, Christopher, Ruben, Owen, and Joshua of 6B took on half of 5B in a game of 4-on-4 volley-water balloon. The boys split into pairs, each holding a towel at waist level like a safety net for the purpose of delicately catching water balloons and then launching them back over the net. This game required teamwork, with each pair shuffling together to track down a water balloon as it wobbled through the air. On each side of the net, one pair of campers patrolled the foreground while the other pair covered the background. Dorm 6B prevailed, 10-5, causing twice as many water balloons to splatter in 5B’s territory.
Meanwhile, the other half of 6B was finishing up a truly wacky game of sock stealing called “the arena challenge.” Ethan was in trouble, somehow being cornered in a circle by two 5B campers. Every time his nemeses attacked, Ethan leapt from his crouching position and spun over the top of them. Or through them. Or around them. He utilized every possible spin, barrel roll, and flip to evade the predators. After seemingly five minutes of such hooliganry, 5B finally prevailed by pinning Ethan to the ground and ripping off one of his socks.
The half of 6B that I had been following now had a chance to build on the madness that they had just witnessed. Campers from 6B and 5B took off their shoes and crouched in the center of the circle, backs to each other. In less than a minute, 6B wiped out 5B, and then, in true unsportsmanlike fashion, they turned on each other. By savage process of elimination, Owen and 6B assistant counselor Michael Davis were the only ones left. Following a minutes-long, titanic battle of the ages, Owen pulled off a stunning upset by pinning both of Mr. Davis’s feet outside of the white circle. Not exactly the ideal strategy for victory, but a victory nonetheless. The next two “arena challenges” saw both 5B and 6B claim a victory.
The ragged group of warriors followed Mr. Roberts to the pool where they would race in a soaking-wet sweat suit across the width of the pool and back, and then compete for the distinction of best graceful dive and most painful dive. Dorm 6B won the race, sending all five heavily burdened campers through in 2 minutes, 58 seconds.
“Guys, look!” Christopher yelled, pulling the sweatpants up to his chest. “I’m Steve Urkel.”
These rugged boys could not even conceive of a graceful leap off the diving board, so they moved on to the painful maneuvers. Ruben and Owen executed loud belly flops that made me squeal in terror.
The wacky event ended with a water slide race. Dylan lay in a mud puddle at the end of the slide, a bucket balanced on his head. Each camper slid down with a wet sponge, cascading soapy water upon dirty Dylan, and emptying the sponge in his bucket until it was finally full. Dorm 6B lost this game to 5B by about 40 seconds.
With that, Wacky Games was over, to be succeeded by a cookout and a free-swim period. I left before succumbing to the temptation of devouring all of the campers’ burgers and hot dogs.