Kūpuna Camp–a tradition among best friends

Annual camp for seniors takes place at The Salvation Army Camp Homelani in Hawaii.

By Brandi Salas –

Florence, age 87, meticulously paints her star ornament and warns her best friend, Daisy, that they only have a few minutes left to finish their project. “Daisy, they’re going to tell us to wrap up soon. Space Bingo is next and I plan to win.”

“I’m almost pau, got one more section to paint,” said 92-year-old Daisy. Florence and Daisy are two of 80 seniors that attended The Salvation Army Kūpuna Camp this summer. “Daisy and I are best friends. We have been coming to The Salvation Army Kūpuna Camp for 24 years. She told me about it one day and it has become a tradition for us,” Florence said.

Kūpuna Camp is a half-day retreat that takes place at The Salvation Army Camp Homelani on Hawaii’s North Shore. In the island culture, a kūpuna is an honored elder who has acquired enough life experience to become a family and community leader. Seniors in various communities across O‘ahu come to Kūpuna Camp to enjoy fellowship, arts and crafts, games and a luncheon. This year’s theme, “Blast Off,” infused each activity with space-themed colors and galaxy patterns.

“Kūpuna Camp is an important program because it gives us an opportunity to connect with the seniors in the community, pray with them, and show them that they are loved,” said Divisional Director of Women’s Ministries Major Lani Chamness. “We have some senior campers here that look forward to it every year, because they are isolated most of the time and are in need of fellowship and companionship.”

When a buzzer goes off, Florence and Daisy move to their next activity, Space Bingo. “I’m great at Bingo–it’s a game we all enjoy,” Florence said, walking ahead to save a seat for Daisy. “Daisy and I go way back. We used to be neighbors at one point. Now we play ukulele at the Mo‘ili‘ili Community Center and wait until we get our invitation to attend Kūpuna Camp. It’s the highlight of the summer for us. We even get goodie bags.”

Each senior camper receives a bag of useful items such as snacks, blankets and socks. Florence, Daisy and other campers rotate around the campus, playing skee ball, getting free balloon hats and shooting down aliens with Nerf guns. “Every time I come, [there’s] something new to do,” Daisy said. “That’s why we sign up every year: they keep us entertained, there’s fellowship, and get all [kinds of] activities.”

The day ends early with a prayer and a healthy lunch. “Daisy, I see we gonna get astronaut ice cream and cheesecake for dessert,” Florence said.

Lunch ends with another round of balloon tricks, hugs and goodbyes. “We better pack up and get on our bus back to Ka‘uluwela Corps,” Florence said. “Let’s go Daisy. We’ll be back next year!”

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