Summer camp offers privilege of service

From left, Notre Dame graduate Susan Walton, 17-year-old daughter Makira and 13-year-old daughter Caroline get ready to paint a resident's room at South Bend's YWCA as Arthur Walton looks on. (Susan Walton)

Notre Dame, Ind. — On some of the hottest mornings this past summer, dozens of University of Notre Dame alumni families grabbed water bottles, piled into their cars and drove off to different sites around South Bend to take part in the university's alumni Family Volunteer Camp.

Instead of the usual summer camp fun, these families spent their four-day camp weeks pulling weeds, sorting canned goods for a food bank, painting a resident's room at the YWCA, visiting nursing home residents, or serving lunch at the South Bend's Center for the Homeless.

Some camp days were grueling, campers admitted.

Rose Rozembajgier, a 1994 graduate from Carmel, Indiana, said that one of her toughest days at last summer's camp was installing a new rubber playground surface at Reins for Life, a horseback-riding facility for disabled children and adults. Rose, her husband, Mike, also a '94 grad, and their three children teamed up with other alumni families on a sweltering day in July.

"We had to fit these rubber pieces around the playground equipment, and it was incredibly difficult," Rose said. "Everybody left sun-burned and blistered, but it was very rewarding because we knew we were leaving this playground accessible to wheelchair-bound kids and adults!"

Like his wife, Mike Rozembajgier is happy with the family service camps his family has attended for the last three years. He's also impressed that Notre Dame's camp planners make sure that campers have a variety of service experiences.

"Each summer," he said, "we've had days that were just incredibly physical. You are really working hard from the moment you get there until the moment you leave. Then, you've got other days where you are equally exhausted, but it's more emotional. You're just listening to people or helping them with what they need to do that day."

A version of this story appeared in the Nov 17-30, 2017 print issue.

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