This week we have been watching the two campsites across from us in awe. Susan and Ed DonFrancesco, grandparents extraordinaire, are camping with their 12 – yes, 12 – grandchildren ranging in age from 4 to 14. This is their annual trip with the children and they have the system buttoned down. Activities abound, and the kids are relaxing, playing, laughing and making lifetime memories at “Nana Camp.”
12 kids, one RV, four tents, two picnic tables, three activity tables
Two RV sites, one RV, four tents, one cabana, two picnic tables, three activity tables, two hammocks, one badminton net, 13 bikes, a lot of organization and a whole lot of planning go into this epic endeavor.
Susan had a daycare for eight-and-a-half years and is well-equipped to handle the activities. Ed handles all the cooking and food. It takes a lot of feedings to fill up active kids – three full meals and lots of snacks. Ed said they are hungry about every two hours!
Favorite foods? Cheeseburgers, tuna pasta salad, French toast and pancakes. S’mores were high on the list, too, of course.
Lots of preparation and organization for Nana Camp
The DonFrancescos arrive a day early to the campground and start setting up. They have four different families coming and each family is responsible for supplying a family tent, sleeping bags, a bicycle, a backpack and a chair for each child. The parents are also responsible for going over the rules with their kids before coming.
The rules for “Nana Camp” and a list of items for each child are sent to the parents ahead of time. The parents are responsible for pick up, drop off and setting up their family’s tent.
Nana Camp 2021
Weather Forecast: Low 90s during the day, high 60s at night. Mostly clear for the week. We will have two vendor tents for additional shelter if it should rain.
Kids Arrival: After lunch on Monday, July 19th
Kids Departure: After 3 p.m., Friday, July 23rd. Campsite checkout is 3 p.m., so meet us at the beach.
Meals: We will provide three meals and three snacks daily about two hours apart beginning with dinner on Monday through Friday lunch.
What to Bring
• Tents. Baker Park allows a maximum of 8 people per campsite so we are fortunate to be able to reserve an adjacent site – J2 & J3. We’re asking each family to set up a tent for their kids. If you wish to make other tent/sleeping arrangements with family members, i.e., share a tent, that’s fine, just let us know. You can set up your tent anytime we are at the park starting Sunday afternoon through Monday evening. We will try to accommodate the younger kids uncomfortable sleeping in a tent.
• Backpacks. Each child should have a backpack with at least 1 long pair of pants, 1 sweatshirt, 4 pairs of shorts, 4 pairs of underwear, 4 t-shirts/tank tops, 1 or 2 bathing suits, a beach towel, washcloth & soap, sandals/sneakers, toothbrush, and toothpaste.
• Lawn chair
• Sleeping bag & air mattress
• Water bottle
• Bicycle, scooter, and skateboard including protective equipment, i.e., helmets, gloves, and kneepads
• Flashlight, if desired
• Lifejacket, as needed
1. Please leave ALL electronic devices at home. Calls to parents can be made on our phones.
2. The white camp table in front of the camper will have the following items on it at all times. Use these items as needed.
• Drink/water thermos
• Bug spray
• Hand sanitizer
3. Buddy System. With 12 kids on our campsite at any given time, everyone needs to stay on the campsite. You may not wander off without Nana’s or Papa’s knowledge and permission.
4. Use Park Restrooms. The water supply in our camper is very limited! If you need to use the bathroom, we’ll ask you to use the park facilities unless it’s an emergency. Younger kids can buddy up with an older cousin to go to the park restrooms.
5. Trash. Place all trash into the round RED bin.
6. Recycling. Place all empty bottles and cans in the BLACK recycling bag.
7. Litter. Please keep the campsite clean. Pick up and discard any trash and debris into the appropriate container.
Lots of swimming, bike riding, badminton, relay races, 4-square, kickball, water balloon fights w/launchers, Piñata, campfire songs and stories. Fun crafts like tie-dye t-shirts, rock painting, sun art, and paper maché.
“Keep them busy” is the key at Nana Camp
After the kids are dropped off, the party is on! Ed says the key is to keep them busy. There are constant activities designed to do just that at Nana Camp. The badminton net is up, four square, crafts, hikes, s’mores, spoon relay races, swimming and biking make up the day. Each day has one major event. Monday was rock painting. Taco Tuesday ends with a Piñata. One day they all made tie-dyed T-shirts. Wednesday was paper maché balloon day and a water balloon fight.
Susan has a box of crafts at the ready – sun prints, felt stuffed animals to sew, a bubble machine, paints and markers. The number one choice of the kids at Nana Camp is swimming and next is bicycle riding on the campground trails.
No devices/no boredom
They are no devices allowed and when the kids were asked if they were bored, they all said no. That is a great testament to the planning and energy that goes into this grand adventure.
I asked Susan what was hardest for the kids. She said that it was a challenge for some that had never slept in a tent without their parents before. By the second night, however, they were so tired by the 10:00 p.m. lights out that they all slept through the night.
Making lifetime memories at Nana Camp
Four nights and five days of memory-making and bonding for the kids and grandparents is something none of them will ever forget. Cousins that had seldom been together got to know each other. They are developing bonds that will last a lifetime.
When asked if they will do it again next year, both Susan and Ed sighed with exhaustion but responded, “Yes.” Each “Nana Camp” is a work in progress and some of the kids got homesick, so next year they are planning to shorten it to three nights and four days. Susan and Ed sum it up: “It is lots of thank you’s and lots of love. We are very fortunate. We are blessed.”