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Cradle Beach campers celebrate summertime with minicarnival

Dylan Doxey admits feeling a bit homesick when he came to Cradle Beach summer camp three years ago.

Never away from home before, Dylan said he wasn't sure what he had gotten himself into and spent the first few days of camp sulking.

Now, his younger brother, Brandon, is going through the same thing with only one slight difference -- he has Dylan there to guide him.

"It's very common for first-timers to be a little homesick for the first few days," said Bonnie A. Brusk, director of youth services. "Then wham -- they're into all the activities, and then they don't want to go home."

The Doxey boys have something else in common at Cradle Beach as well: They simply can't get enough of swimming in the in-ground pool with its diving board and towering spiral slide.

"The pool just feels so good on a hot day," said Dylan, 13, who has grown to love Cradle Beach and its wide range of activities. "One day we'll be outside playing water tag, and the next we'll be in the woods trying to balance on a rope."

Dylan has been practicing at the kickball play station and is eagerly awaiting the all-star kickball game. The traditional match will take place later this week and features campers versus pioneer campers -- older campers who take on more of a leadership role at Cradle Beach -- in a winner-take-all-the-glory competition. Dylan is seeking redemption for the whipping the campers received last year.

"It's kind of a prestigious event here at camp," said Brusk. "We raise the flag and sing the national anthem before the match. We also bring in referees and a scoreboard, and the campers just have a blast."

For Brandon, his crowning moment came Sunday when Sunshine Day -- a minicarnival for the kids -- reigned supreme at Cradle Beach. The Evans Lions Club was on hand to set up a traditional picnic and cooked Sahlen's hot dogs on the grill. The club also brought in a bounce house and some antique cars.

Meanwhile, Cradle Beach campers spent part of the day setting up their cabins as game booths and then took turns running the stations. That way, Brusk said, it gives them a little responsibility amid all of the fun, which includes ice cream cones, face paint and karaoke.

"It's a pretty special day here," said Brusk. "Besides 'When can we go swimming?' [campers] always ask, 'When is Sunshine Day?' "

Campers eagerly awaited the arrival of Capt. Kevin Caffery of the Erie County Sheriff's Aviation Unit, who was scheduled to land a helicopter at camp and let campers have a firsthand look inside before watching it take off, but Sunday's bad weather forced the bird to remain grounded. Plans to reschedule for a later date are already in the works.

Cradle Beach is also playing host to six groups (each compose of eight students) from the University at Buffalo School of Nursing. The collaboration began last year and brings each group of students to camp for two days for some hands-on pediatric experience by assisting counselors and providing educational lessons for campers on various topics like hygiene, nutrition and heat exhaustion.

"Cradle Beach is great throughout the year, but summer is what we live for," said Brusk, who was reminiscing on some memorable moments as camp winds down toward the last session of the summer. "This is when it's full of life and energy."

Donations can be sent to 8038 Old Lakeshore Road, Angola, or by visiting www.cradlebeach.org.

email: emazzu@buffnews.com