Over two days and one night in September, 48 grandparents and their grandchildren came to Dos Picos County Park to participate, free of charge, in a variety of camping activities led by County of San Diego staff and volunteers. Caregivers and children decked out in face paint participated in lawn games, arts and crafts, an evening nature walk and spending quality time with each other. Nighttime at the campsite started with a glowstick dance party, followed by an opportunity to learn how to safely build a campfire and roast marshmellows. For those families who needed camping gear, Adventure 16 Outfitters donated sleeping bags, sleeping pads and tents, so that everyone who wanted could participate, regardless of camping expertise or financial need.
Dos Picos Park Rangers provided touch tables for children and adults to see animals that can be found in San Diego County Parks. Participants were able to touch or hold a tarantula, a snake, a guinea pig and a beetle, overcoming fears together and learning about local wildlife. Supervising Ranger Jane Engleton led the campers in planting three young lemonade berry bushes, a memory for the families to come back to and watch grow for years to come.
This event was a result of feedback given from relative caregivers about the need for more bonding activities. The goal was to support families in their enjoyment of nature and create an opportunity for them to learn together and bond with each other and new friends. For almost five years, the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency has been hosting regional Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Symposiums around the county to provide resources, vital information, and other tools to support kinship caregivers in raising their grandchildren or young family members. At these events, HHSA has given surveys to evaluate what activities and support systems would be most significant to kinship caregivers and raising their children. A lack of family enrichment opportunities or ability to participate in such events was a prevalent concern noted in evaluations. Often, these caregivers have taken in children that they did not expect to care for in their later years, and have had to change their own plans in order to provide a loving home. Through identifying this need for extracurricular activities, coupled with a close partnership with the County's Department of Parks and Recreation, the first “Gramping,” trip or grandparent camping was created.
For more information on kinship caregiver resources and events, visit http://211sandiego.org/resources/highlighted-resources/grandparents-caregivers/