By Caroline Chan | December 9, 2022
We’ve heard time and time again that it’s important to build and foster intergenerational relationships. It benefits everyone involved—from the young to the old. Waltonwood Communities decided to encourage these relationships through a fun, creative and engaging event: Camp Waltonwood.
“Camp Waltonwood is an annual, intergenerational community event that began in 2018 as a way to provide our residents the opportunity to invite their grand[children] and great-grandchildren to experience life at Waltonwood!” began Lindsay Charlefour, life enrichment director of Waltonwood Communities.
The event is open to all current residents, associates, their children/grandchildren/great-grandchildren ages 5-11 and their guardians, and it’s held at all 12 Waltonwood communities—located across Michigan, North Carolina and Virginia.
“Our company is family-centered and focuses on creating opportunities for families to come together in an engaging, supportive and fun-filled atmosphere,” Charlefour continued. “So many of our residents share fond memories of summer vacations, including camping, with their family. We want to ensure those traditions continue by bringing Camp Waltonwood to them!”
Each community decides on a theme—such as a safari, the outdoors or a luau—for their Camp Waltonwood event, and then they center the food and activities around that.
“The life enrichment, culinary and entire management team come together, leaving no detail behind, to create an incredibly special experience,” said Charlefour. “[We] are thrilled we are able to create such a memory-making experience for our residents and families.”
This summertime camp-inspired event didn’t happen the last couple of years (2020 and 2021) due to the pandemic, but this year, it was back in session.
“For our Camp Waltonwood, we focused on a pirate quest theme,” said Emilia Gnida, life enrichment director of Waltonwood Lakeside in Sterling Heights, MI. “We had sensory treasure boxes that the kids had to stick their hands in and identify items that they felt, a nautical rope tying class, an interactive picture station and crafts where they designed their own ‘Jolly Roger’ flag and parrots. We built a plank over one of the ponds in our courtyard so kids could walk the plank, a hoop throw onto pirate hooks and a bag toss to ‘sink the enemy ship.’”
Residents often get involved in organizing and leading their community’s event; that helps foster those intergenerational relationships.
“It’s important to us to get the residents just as involved in this event as the kids,” Gnida said. “Giving the residents a sense of purpose to help put on and run this program for the kids was empowering to them—and they participated in the whole process.”
Charlefour said that residents often help make decorations and put together goodie bags for the kids before the events. Then, during the event, “residents greet and register campers, host stations such as making trail mix, [doing] crafts and leading a sing-along by the campfire…and stamp passports as children complete each station,” she said.
Gnida added that the residents at her community had fun hosting the activity stations at their Camp Waltonwood event. “Our residents really enjoyed leading the crafts, hoop throw, bag toss, sensory boxes and plank walk,” she said. “Our musically-talented residents played instruments for the children as well!”
Although the camp currently only lasts for a couple or few hours, Gnida noted that a longer event could be fun. “An overnight Camp Waltonwood for residents and their grandchildren would be an awesome addition to this event,” she said.
But she enjoyed seeing the event come together as is. “I genuinely had fun putting this event together,” she said. “The little details really made this event shine, and we were so proud of the outcome!”
And both she and Charlefour shared that they had fun seeing how much fun the residents and campers had at these events.
“The unspeakable joy that comes with spontaneous interaction between [the] residents and the campers gives me goosebumps every camp,” Charlefour said. “Those are the moments that are created naturally when people from age 2-102 are uninhibited and truly enjoying themselves.”
Gnida agreed. “My favorite part of Camp Waltonwood is seeing the…kids’ faces as they run around to each station, creating lifelong memories with their grandparents—and in turn, the grandparents’ reaction to the kids having a great time. Being able to witness that is a joy, and the residents cherish every moment,” she said. “Waltonwood is all about family and we want to foster those special moments as much as possible.”