Everything was dark, blindfolds covered ours eyes, and our team leader kept us huddled at the entrance to the cabin. Another camper was clutching my hoodie so as not to get separated as we waited for our ride to arrive. There were 10 of us campers in the team, and all but one of us had picked out a foam animal mask to use as a blindfold for our super-secret mission. The orange team mates (what we call the adults who look after us in the orange group) had helped us cover up the eye holes of the masks to turn them into blindfolds so that the super-secret mission could stay super-secret until the last minute. The nine different animals huddled together outside the cabin, waiting. Wondering.
Oh, I’m Harri by the way, and I’m 10 years old. I’d picked a tiger as my mask. I’d always wanted to see a tiger for real as my parents told me stories about seeing them in the wild whilst they were growing up. The eight other campers (I was the oldest and Jack was the youngest at eight) had masks on too, from monkeys to zebras and lions. One girl wasn’t feeling well today and had to go to the med shed (where the doctors and nurses live) for some medicine, so she wasn’t on the mission with us.
Suddenly we heard a screech and the leader told us the stealth bus had arrived to take us on our mission. The team mates helped us into the bus with our blindfolds still on, and then we heard a new voice welcome us aboard. I recognised it as the camp director (the boss around here!). I was surprised he had screeched the bus to a stop and that he was helping us on our secret mission because usually he always talks about ‘safety’, so it was cool he was joining in. Then he told us what the super-secret mission was.
“Pedro has been kidnapped and it’s our job to rescue him!”
(Pedro was the orange team mascot, worn around the belt of our team leader at all times. He was a knitted teddy bear but had an eye mask and a cape that were orange because our theme for the week at camp was superheroes. Pedro also held the shield pistol, which was a water pistol that our team leader said was actually a super force field that made a shield that we all had to huddle into when he needed to get us grouped together or give us super-secret messages. Come to think of it, I hadn’t seen Pedro at all today!)
“He’s being held captive by some dastardly bin-bag monsters and the orange team need to rescue him ASAP! I’ve done some research on bin-bag monsters and found out their weakness. Some of your team mates are readying the weapons for the mission, but first we have to get there. It’s going to be a bumpy ride to get to their hideout! Ready? Let’s go!”
We screech off again, still blindfolded. Everyone was talking excitedly and calling out ideas about how to defeat the bin-bag monsters and get Pedro back safely. The van was turning loads of corners, and going over loads of bumps, then we went round what must have been the biggest roundabout in the world! The camp director called out that we were going over a ravine as we dropped down a dip, then said we’d have to drive underwater through a river as we splashed our way towards Pedro’s captors.
All of a sudden we screeched to a halt and the door flung open. One by one we were helped out the bus by the team mates. Our team leader then said we could take off the eye hole covers off our masks. When we did, we saw the three bin-bag monsters straight away, by the huge oak tree on the other side of camp. I looked closely and saw something orange on the trunk of the tree. It was Pedro! He was tied to the tree being guarded by evil monsters.
“Look! It’s Pedro!”
I pointed for the other campers. Then the camp director said:
“The bin-bag monsters are pretty fearsome guys, BUT I’ve found their weakness. Look on the ground behind you, and you’ll see what it is.”
We spun round. There on the floor, laid out everywhere were paper plates and plastic cups, with loads of messy food on them. The plates had rice and spaghetti, and I think there were plates with shaving foam piles up on them too! The cups were full of baked beans and spaghetti hoops. There must have been HUNDREDS of them laid out in front of us, plus a row of big bottles of lemonade too. Then the team mates gave each of us two big water pistols! Two EACH! I tested mine:
“They’ve got chocolate milk in them!!”
Our team leader called out:
“Grab your weapons of choice, campers! Now, let’s rescue Pedro!”
We ran at the three bin-bag monsters, squirting the chocolate milk at them to slow them down whilst some campers grabbed cups of beans to launch at them like grenades. A cup flew over my head as I fired a stream of chocolate milk at the middle bin-bag monster. The cup hit them on the shoulder, exploding beans straight into their face! More cups flew and landed near by, and some of them got direct hits too, splattering beans up into the air.
Sometimes I got caught in the crossfire and I started to panic, but then I remembered yesterday my team leader had sat me down and said that something fun was going to happen the next day and that I didn’t need to worry about it because it was all safe and okay. This must be what he was talking about!
As my chocolate milk pistols ran out, I ran back to the arsenal of messy food. I saw some chocolate yoghurt pots with the lids already off. I grabbed two, spun round and launched them through the air. One missed the bin-bag monsters by a long way and just exploded on the grass, but the other one landed in the middle of a fallen monster’s back whilst another camper was shaking and spraying a big bottle of lemonade all over the monster’s head!! One of the other bin-bag monsters was getting closer to two of the younger campers who had just run out of chocolate milk in their pistols. Me and the second-oldest camper picked up plates of shaving foam and ran to them, giving them one each so that we had two left to share too. All four of us then splatted them into the bin-bag monster’s face at the same time!!
That was two of the monsters dealt with. I saw the last one heading back to the tree where Pedro was tied up. I saw a chocolate milk pistol on the ground and grabbed it whilst running after him. The bin-bag monster looked over his shoulder and saw me. I shouted:
“I’ll get you!! You’ll never keep Pedro from us!”
I caught up with him and blasted him direct in the chest with a squirt of chocolate milk, sending him flying to the ground like a stun-gun. I ran past him and finally I was at the tree. I pulled the string from round Pedro and took him from the tree. I turned, Pedro held high, and shouted:
“I’ve got him! Mission accomplished!!”
The three bin-bag monsters were all on the ground, covered in beans, spaghetti, rice and lots and lots of chocolate milk and yoghurt. All us campers ran back to the bus, and our team leader and the camp director cheered as the team mates helped us back inside to zoom away back to the safety of the cabin, leaving the defeated bin-bag monsters (and a mega mess!) behind us. That night at cabin chat (where we sit as a team, with hot chocolate and marshmallows and talk about what we enjoyed that day) the only thing everyone talked about was the food fight and rescuing Pedro. When we did our roses and thorns (the good bits and bad bits from the day) everyone said the food fight for their rose. The camper who was poorly earlier was back and we told her all about it and said we wished she could have been there to join in the fun of rescuing Pedro. At bedtime we stayed up way way way past lights out talking about the super-secret mission and how cool it was. One of the other boys said he had never had a food fight as fun as that one.
For me though, this was an extra-special-super-secret mission. Whilst the other camper told us about a food fight he had had before, I thought about the one today. I had never had a food fight before. I could probably never have one again outside of camp either. It’s why today was probably, no, definitely the best day of my life. All the campers here have some sort of illness. One of the other boys in my team has no hair because he has cancer. One of the girls has to take loads and loads of medicine everyday. The reason I’m at camp is because of all my allergies. I’m allergic to pretty much everything, especially food. I can’t eat wheat, gluten, dairy, most brand stuff and even some meats. If I even touch anything I’m allergic to I have a reaction that stops me breathing and I have to be injected with a special pen full of medicine. It used to happen a lot and it’s really scary. I always have to go to hospital in an ambulance, which screeches around like the stealth bus on the super-secret mission but isn’t very fun at all. I haven’t had a reaction for a little while but I have to be really really careful. At school I have to eat separately from everyone else so I don’t accidentally touch food I can’t have. For me to be in a food fight was something I never ever thought would be able to happen.
My team leader told me later that evening that all the team mates had thought of doing a food fight because camp was the only place I could ever have one safely. My team leader and all the camp doctors and nurses had got together with the kitchen staff and worked out all the messiest foods I could have, and how to prepare them without contaminating them. The chocolate milk in the pistols was all soya, as were the yoghurts, and the other things were all brands that were safe for me, which they knew because they had phoned my mum to triple check, even though they already had a list of stuff I could have. I don’t know when they managed to do all this because it seems like they’re with us campers all the time doing all the activities and singing and dancing all day long. Maybe they just don’t sleep!
I don’t think I’ll ever forget the food fight we had against the bin-bag monsters in the daring rescue of Pedro, the Orange Team Mascot. Even if I never get to have another food fight again, because of my allergies, I won’t mind, because nothing will beat the best food fight of all time!
Over The Wall is a nationwide children’s charity that provides therapeutic camps for children affected by serious illness. It aims to rebuild and replenish what is lost to a child when they’ve been through, or are going through life-changing or life-limiting illness. As a volunteer, one of the reasons I return to camp again and again is the overwhelming spirit of determination and optimism shared amongst everyone there. It’s often most evident when people work together to make something like this story happen. Whilst the names and some minor details are changed in this story, it is essentially true. Volunteers bought extra supplies of safe foods out of their own pocket, the med team gave time they didn’t really have to make sure everyone had Epipens at the ready (and were appropriately trained to use them!) and that everything was safe. The kitchen staff (not even part of the charity) worked overtime voluntarily to specially prepare the food without contamination, and the team mates from my team set out all of the ‘weapons’ and cleaned up the amazing mess we made afterwards, including washing all the chocolate soya milk out of the water pistols! All for a 10 minute food fight. But it was 10 minutes that one child will never ever forget, and that’s why we volunteer at Over The Wall. If you’d like to volunteer as a team mate, activity leader or you’re a paediatric nurse or doctor and would like to be part of the invaluable volunteer med team, take a look at the charity’s website. There are other stories inspired by camp on this blog too.