Like the crack of the bat, Malta Camp USA’s day began with great cheers as Gary Holle, formerly of the Texas Rangers, and Tom Carroll, of the 1975 World Series champion Cincinnati Reds, met our camp participants emerging from their ADA-compliant “kneeling” bus in front of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. With enthusiasm and a background in disabilities education, Matt from the Hall of Fame’s education team began our guided tour by transforming the Malta Campers using historic uniforms and equipment from across 150 years of the game.
Then, scavenger-hunt-style cards were distributed so each camp-goer could find a special inductee while visiting the Hall of Fame’s hallowed Plaque Gallery. Campers next saw the World Series ring collection where Tom Carroll excitingly passed around his own 1975 ring for each Malta Camper to try on; something even our guide had never experienced at the Hall of Fame before! Through green-screen technology, our guests had their own baseball cards made, memorializing the visit and putting them each on their favorite Major League team. The visit concluded with a restful stop in the theater to see the Hall of Fame interpreted by the game’s greatest living legends. Dr. Joseph Dutkowsky chimed in, moderating an outstanding Q&A with our Major League player-companions for the day, Gary and Tom. Afterwards, a picnic lunch was enjoyed alongside Otsego Lake, the bucolic setting energized at last our camp song and dance.
The Malta Camp USA bus pulled into the long drive of Dr. Joseph Dutkowsky’s “Dancing Lawn”, coming to rest before our Cooperstown host’s home, festively bedecked in Order of Malta flags, a voluminous pavilion to sit out in the shade, and most excitingly a baseball field lovingly crafted for the campers’ visit. While Tom Carroll and parish pastor Fr. Michael Cambi alternated pitching whiffle balls (with T-Ball option available), camp directors Luisa and Christopher’s teams took to the field and filled the barring lineup, enjoying what must be one of the most fun and spectacular games this baseball town had ever seen! Tours of Dancing Lawn’s stunning chapel and a generously catered dinner under the tents were capped by each guest having a baseball signed in order to remember this incredible day. Very specially, our campers witnessed the surprise presentation of the Order of Malta’s Pro Merito COVID-19 Campaign Medal, freshly arrived from Rome, by Area Chairs Jean and Peter Maloy to Dr. Dutkowsky for his extraordinary efforts during the pandemic.
Returning to Siena College, Malta Camp USA took in and sang along to the celebrated Disney film “Encanto” while set out on picnic blankets, inflatable chez lounges and Adirondack chairs, with blankets and boxes of popcorn aplenty. It was a whimsical end to an incredible fourth day of Malta Camp USA.
Camp guests and volunteers explored Howe Caverns, a series of underground caves and waterways operating for tourism for the past century, with guides who had special preparation to interpret for the campers. Recent 2020-21 renovations made the visit especially accessible and enriched the building of friendships between camp participants with and without disabilities.
At June Farms, all campers were given a golf cart tour to see and learn about heritage breed cattle, goats, and other livestock. The tour was loaded with photo opportunities and special care for those with disabilities as the farm’s staff and interns guided the caravan around manicured trails and paddocks.
Members, Auxiliary, and Associates from the Upstate New York Area prepared outstanding arts and crafts projects for each camper, with finished tote bags, a photo project, and ornaments created by the guests and volunteers. Guests also enjoyed the visit of a certified therapy dog.
The “Silent Night” began with the Rosary as Area Members joined campers in processing to Siena College’s Lourdes Grotto. Prayer, praise music, and a holy hour of candlelit Eucharistic Adoration followed in the chapel. Four friar priests from the Franciscan community offered reflection on the True Presence and then confessions throughout the hour. A quiet turn in with desserts available was enjoyed afterwards.
After a hearty breakfast, Malta Camp USA set out to Lake George. The morning was spent exploring Fort William Henry of French and Indian War fame. A dedicated interpreter, from the 18th-century troops who man the fort, introduced the events at the time the original fort was built. The story of Saint Isaac Jogues was recounted, and musket and cannon demonstrations on the ramparts were seen. Camp guests and their helpers cooperated in punching tin ornaments.
The steamboat Lac du Sacrament launched at noon and a lunch, accompanied by pop standards and piano tunes, were enjoyed by all campers. Sitting out on the deck or dancing on the ballroom floor were enjoyed as the boat toured the lake.
Returning to Siena College for dinner, all present attended and participated in a grand talent show. Guests sang karaoke style, in duets, or ordered up music of their choice, dressed and decked out with props and accessories for the stage. Costumed volunteers cheered on each courageous performer. The daily slideshow, revisiting the day’s best moments, capped the evening.
Click here for a recap of the kickoff day of the very first Malta Camp USA.