The magic of a campfire – American Indian’s “television,” the comfort, camaraderie and confidence of being on a team, and the satisfaction from all the work required to cook a meal outside creates a unique opportunity for therapeutic growth. Peering reflectively into a campfire can lead to unexpected and uninhibited conversation. Because reflective communication is a goal for campers during their time at CJM, all campers are strongly encouraged to participate in cookouts to their fullest individual capabilities.
The Camp John Marc cookout requires a lengthy step-by-step process and many hands to complete. The menu, which has stayed much the same throughout the years, includes chicken fajitas, grilled vegetables, rice, American Indian frybread, and hand-cranked ice cream. All the cooked items are prepared from scratch in cast iron cookware over an open fire.
It is not unusual to see campers at a cookout building an A-Frame or a Tipi fire base. They are also responsible for striking the match that lights the flame. The fire builders tend the fire while the other campers cut vegetables, prepare frybread, and crank the ice cream maker handle. Then when the campfire is right, the campers, with support from staff, begin to cook the meal.
Often it is at this point the campers share feelings. Below are some camper thoughts overheard during cookout through the years:
Camp I-Thonka-Chi (for burn survivors): “I did not know fire could be used for good, like preparing a meal.”
Camp TLC (for campers with spina bifida): “I never thought I would sit around a campfire and cook. You know, I can’t use my legs.” Another camper replied, “Do you use your legs to cook?”
Camp Sanguinity (for cancer survivors): “My mom prefers that I not light matches because she cares about me. But she said I could light a match at cookout.”
Camp Jubilee (for campers with sickle cell anemia): “All my complaining about having to sit around a campfire and cook is going down with every bite of frybread I have.”
Camp Broncho (for campers with asthma): “I thought you could only buy ice cream in the store. I did not know you could make it.”