In recent years, Jakir Manela says he has noticed an interesting trend while overseeing the Pearlstone Center’s annual Family Farm Camp program.
While lots of parents join their offspring for the five-day camp that celebrates spending quality time in nature, a growing number of grandparents also have participated in the activities, says Manela, chief executive officer of the retreat and outdoor education campus in Reisterstown.
“It’s been an amazing multi-generational event, and really one of the best events we do all year long,” he says. “One of the more beautiful things we have seen in relation to the camp has been seeing more grandparents coming out sometimes with the parents and children.”
As a result, the center is now expanding the Family Farm Camp program — which includes harvesting fresh produce, swimming, arts and crafts, and music — to launch its inaugural Grandparent Farm Camp, or Gramp Camp, on Aug. 13-14.
The overnight program is designed specifically for grandparents and grandchildren (up to 12 years of age) and leads directly into the traditional Family Farm Camp.
“It’s really beautiful to see multiple generations — parents, children and grandparents, or just grandparents and grandchildren — come together,” Manela says. “We believe that this camp opportunity for grandparents will provide just that.”
Gramp Camp was made possible, in part, due to funds from the Jewish Grandparents Network, a nonprofit that supports grandparents as essential family members who make unique contributions to their families and to the future of the Jewish community.
According to a U.S. Census Bureau report published last year, the number of grandparents in the United States is growing. The population of grandparents reached 69.5 million in 2014, up from 65.1 million five years earlier.
Jewish communal studies strongly emphasize that grandparents wield a strong influence on their grandchildren’s Jewish identities.
“For all childhood experiences, Jewish grandparents should be viewed as a critical resource, and programs should be designed to leverage their influence,” states a 2015 study titled “Millennial Children of Intermarriage” published by the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University.
Organizers believe that Gramp Camp will allow participants to explore Jewish traditions and spirituality through the touchstones of food, farming and foresting. Activities will include nature walks, group games, gleaning fruits and vegetables, cooking and telling stories under the stars.
For the more adventurous of spirit and agile campers, there also will be activities such as a high ropes adventure course, zip lines, a rock wall and a waterslide.
“There used to be this picture of grandparents as elderly and not very active,” Manela says. “That’s really not the case today. Today’s grandparents are largely baby boomers who are excited about being active with their grandchildren. That doesn’t mean doing extreme sports, but it does mean spending quality time outdoors with their grandchildren. We’re excited about the opportunities that could present themselves with this Gramp Camp.”
Local Jewish activist, author and philanthropist Lee M. Hendler is a co-founder and president of the Jewish Grandparents Network. She says she is thrilled with the Gramp Camp concept and views it as another way for today’s more active grandparents to become involved in their grandchildren’s lives and development.
“The Gramp Camp is a great way for families to explore the grandparent/grandchild relationship,” says Hendler, who will attend the inaugural camp with two of her own six grandchildren. “This is an extension of what Pearlstone already does with families, but allows for grandparents to have some individual time with their grandchildren.
“The baby boomer generation has taken on a much more active role in their grandchildren’s lives,” she says. “We assist with caretaking, carpooling and other activities. A camp like this is an amazing way for those relationships to grow outside of the day-to-day activities.
“I hope this will continue to grow in the future, especially as grandparents are expected to live longer and longer lives.”
For information about the inaugural Gramp Camp, visit pearlstonecenter.org.
Ron Snyder is a Baltimore-based freelance writer.