Popular camp celebrates 48 years of summertime fun

If ever there comes a time that you’re feeling down and depressed, I have the perfect cure for what ails ye!

Pay a visit to the Dyberry Day Camp, which runs for 20 days each July. It’s a magical place where laughter and smiles wash over you like healing waters.

I did just that myself this week and came away feeling utterly rejuvenated ... even had my faith in humanity restored a little bit.

Family Night

The camp is located on private property not far from the Wayne County Fairgrounds. It’s a special spot reserved for some very special people.

I was fortunate enough to be invited to “Family Night,” one of the summer’s biggest events of the season for campers and counselors alike.

More than 200 folks turned out Wednesday evening for this year’s edition of the event. They gathered under the pavilion to watch a special show campers put on for their entertainment.

The theme for 2019 was “Dyberry Day Camp’s Game of Games,” a hilarious send-up of a contest popularized by daytime TV Star Ellen Degeneres.

Campers took part in crazy contests involving water balloons, bean bags, pom poms ... even chocolate pudding and gold coins!

Family members and friends cheered them on, laughing, clapping taking pictures and shooting video.

Something tells me that Facebook and Instagram were working overtime to process all the happy images from this particular night.

Tradition

Dyberry Day Camp runs every summer all through the month of July.

Boys and girls ages 5-21 arrive each day (Monday to Friday) at 9 a.m. Sessions begin with a everyone gathering in a circle for attendance, followed by a group recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.

After that, there’s plenty of time for activities and arts & crafts. There are also basketball hoops, a giant “sandbox” and playground.

One of the most popular pieces of equipment is a specially designed and constructed swing set. It was purchased with money raised at the very first Friends of Dyberry Golf Tournament.

“That’s my pride and joy,” said Camp Director Bette Baerenklau with a big smile. “Having a swing set that can accommodate a wheelchair was always one of my dreams and I was so happy when we got it.”

The camp’s come a long way since those early days and Kathy Highhouse has been there since Day One.

A veteran of 35 years teaching special ed in Honesdale, she has an unique perspective when discussing the history of Dyberry Day Camp.

There were just 15 campers that first year and a small staff operating on a shoestring budget of $6,000. This year, there are nearly 60 campers mentored by more than 30 counselors and a budget of $65,000.

They started with one small shed and a handful of tents made of waterproof tarps. The highlights back then were swimming in the creek, bonfires, hot dogs and roasting marshmallows.

“The simple things are my favorite,” Kathy said. “Like just spending some time playing in the sand pile. I love seeing the kids have fun just doing simple things they might not otherwise get to do.”

Bette was quick to agree.

She and her husband Al have been deeply involved with the camp for more than three decades. It’s a labor of love for the Baerenklaus ... and something that simply doesn’t happen in every city or town.

“We live in an absolutely wonderful community,” she said. “They’ve always supported us and our mission. We couldn’t do any of this without that support.”

Ginny Motsko has also dedicated a huge chunk of her adult life to the camp. She’s been an enthusiastic volunteer for more than 40 years and currently serves as president of the Wayne County ARC.

“I just love all the smiles,” Ginny said, gesturing to a happy group of campers prepping for their big skit.

“There’s an awful lot of work that goes into this every year, but everybody always has so much fun and that’s the most important thing.”

Coming Together

Camp volunteers provide everything except lunch, but once again local groups, politicians and businesses jump right in to cover that.

Just a quick perusal of social media reveals delicious meals provided by the likes of the Honesdale Rotary Club, the Catholic Daughters, Wallenpaupack Area School District administrators, State Rep. Jonathan and Donna Fritz, Bethany Presbyterian Church, Wayne County Commissioners ... to name just a few.

Depending on the weather, campers get in an hour of swimming at the borough pool. But they also embark on exciting field trips. One of the most anticipated of these excursions is a RailRiders baseball game courtesy of the Lions Club.

Other highlights include a visit to Texas No. 4, the Steamtown Mall, Chuck E. Cheese and the movies.

Over & Out

The idyllic little corner of the world upon which Dyberry Day Camp sits is owned by the O’Day and Rickard families.

While they’re content to remain in the background, Bette was quick to express her gratitude.

“They’re such wonderful people,” she said. “In all my years, they’ve never said no when we ask to do something. They’re so generous and I can’t thank them enough.”

If you’d like to pitch in and help as well, please consider sending a donation. Every dollar is appreciated.

The ARC of Wayne County, P.O. Box 1121, Honesdale, PA 18431