The lively young woman and a fragile older man walked hand-in-hand on a nature walk, slowly trailing a long line of fellow participants in a residential summer camp for adults with disabilities.
Ronnie Meusel, the 23-year-old counselor, and Eugene Harvey, 58, are longtime attendees at Camp Glow, begun nearly 40 years ago by a Catholic nun and funded annually by the Archdiocese of Baltimore and its parishes.
"I won at bingo last night," said Harvey, who lives in Gambrills and prefers "Dude" to his given name. "I don't want to swim this afternoon."
Meusel, who continues a family tradition of volunteering at the camp, assured her charge that he would not have to take a plunge. She offered to hang out with him poolside and perhaps work on a craft project.
The camp offers participants a week in the country, which for some is their only vacation. It also offers a respite to their caregivers, who are often aging parents. This week marked the last of three six-day sessions that provided physical, spiritual, social and artistic activities to more than 100 campers from area parishes.
Meusel, a Dundalk resident, uses vacation days from her job at a Baltimore radio station and spends a week at the camp, whose acronym stands for "God Loves Our World." Her late uncle, who had Down syndrome, was among the camp's first participants.
"It's rewarding here, especially to see everybody's gifts," she said. "I have been coming for seven years, and every year, there are new experiences."
She often works with the same campers. "We pick up right where we left off last year."
As the pair approached a narrow tunnel running below York Road to a grassy hilltop, she had to walk behind him but easily allayed his fears.
"I am right here with you," she said. "It's dark but keep looking ahead. You will see the light."
The camp is free for adults with disabilities, said Bill Fleming, the director of disabilities ministry for the archdiocese who has run the camp programs for five years. "We added a third week this year because we received such great support and contributions."
The camp is held at Monsignor O'Dwyer Retreat House, a northern Baltimore County complex that includes an Olympic-size pool, gardens and woodsy stretches. Fleming hopes to open a second camp in Western Maryland next year.
"All through the year, one camper calls me at home once a week to ask when her next turn for camp will be," he said. "These are people with very little money and menial jobs, who remember us and give us so much."
The camp's volunteers range in age from pre-teens to 92. They mingle with the campers, help with projects and guide them through activities including nature walks and building birdhouses.
Barbara Heim has volunteered since her friend, the late Sister Justa Walton, founded the camp in the 1970s. The 92-year-old Southwest Baltimore resident gathered hugs from campers as she moved among the crafts tables.
"There is only happiness here," she said. "Besides, it keeps me busy. Who wants to stay home and watch TV all day?"
She already has penciled herself in for two weeks next summer.
At first, Mary Lehmann, 86, came as a counselor with her son Chuck, who had Down syndrome. He died 33 years ago, but she never stopped supporting Camp Glow.
"I knew there were many here who needed me," said Lehmann, a Perry Hall resident. "It is really my calling. This is a wonderful part of life that lets you meet many wonderful people."
Kelly Kuhar, 46, showed off the heart-shaped box she had painted. The Rosedale resident was looking forward to a pool party, dancing and a talent show, where she planned to sing "You Are My Sunshine."
"I love it here and keep coming back," she said.
Kuhar would also do a Scripture reading at the camp's daily Mass. She and Lehmann practiced the passage as the other campers filed into a small chapel. Beside the altar hung a banner inscribed with the signatures of campers and the words "Thank you, Lord."
Ellen Boyle, 38, escorted the Rev. Matthew Buening into the chapel as the campers sang a hymn that began, "Let us build a city of love." Boyle, who said she returns "again and again to the camp I love so much," promised the priest she would sing her "Jesus song" during the service.
"You are the treasure of the church," Buening told the campers and their companions.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun