I love to camp. Growing up I had great experiences at Camp Greene Girl Scout Camp, and my children loved their experiences and friendships that were developed at 4-H Camp Clifton. On our farm we host Cross Country Camp for the high school team our son-in-law coaches. And sometimes we just have very informal “Cousins Camp at Grandma’s” for my grandkids.
But this week I visited the most amazing camp at Flying Horse Farms in Mt. Gilead, Ohio. The camp is located on a beautiful farm on the rolling hills of central Ohio. It is a camp for kids with serious illnesses. It is a medical specialty camp where these children can grow, heal and survive.
When you arrive at Flying Horse Farms, there is a big, beautiful, red barn, much like the one in Margaret Wise Brown’s Big Red Barn children’s book. Topping the barn is a weather vane — featuring a flying horse. Attached to one side of the barn is a special area called Hole in the Wall. When the children arrive at camp they have a special ceremony in the Hole in the Wall space. They can “leave their worries about their illness behind” and enter into camp to simply have fun and be a kid! On site, there is an incredible medical and psychosocial team, and a state of the art urgent care facility.
The campers stay is cabins, and I got to tour one of the empty ones. They were equipped with bunk beds and a wooden trunk for each camper to store their things. On each bed was a patchwork quilt, made by volunteers. They were all different and the kids got to take them home at the end of their camp week — so special for them!
I toured the kitchen area and saw where kids could make good food choices and learn more about food. I visited the Happy Times Wood Shop where volunteers helped the children learn to use tools and helped them make projects from tools. The pool was amazing and designed to accommodate children with many disabilities. So many had never been in a pool before, and now they were learning to swim. They were all under personalized medical supervision.
As I watched the kids climb the climbing wall, I saw how excited they were, and cheered for them as they reached the top. I would have been afraid to do the ropes course and zip line myself, but they were all harnessed and very safe, and so excited by their accomplishments. As one camper said, “I loved being surrounded by other kids who were like me.” It was truly a magical place!
The camp has wonderful hospital partners from many of the children’s hospitals in Ohio, including Dayton Children’s, Akron Children’s, Cincinnati Children’s, Nationwide Children’s, and Cleveland Clinic Children’s and Rainbow Babies hospitals.
In Flying Horse Farms’ recent publication, they shared a recipe for an allergen-friendly birthday cake. As I read through the recipe I realized that it was just like my Mix-in-the-Pan Cake recipe, which contains no eggs or milk, and it can be made with gluten-free flour. So here is my recipe. You can mix it in a bowl or right in the pan. It is great for cupcakes too.
Mix-in-the-Pan Chocolate Cake
3 cups flour
1 ½ cups sugar
6 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
Measure these ingredients into 9” x 13” cake pan (or bowl). Stir together. Make 3 holes. Put each of these into a hole:
2/3 cup oil
2 tablespoons vinegar
2 teaspoons vanilla
Pour over all:
2 cups water
Mix well with a spoon.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.
Ohio First Lady Fran DeWine is a Cedarville resident, Yellow Springs native and guest columnist.