To enjoy the outdoors, Agnes goes camping

Buckled in for a tour in a UTV, Agnes Green in the back seat with her nephew David Jones and Edith Chambers in the front, hold on as driver and ranger Rob Dunham prepares to take off.

POMONA STATE PARK – What do you do if you’re 91 years old and you suddenly get the urge to go camping? Well, if you’re Agnes Green, and a resident at Life Care Center of Osawatomie, you and a few friends pack up a bus and head to the lake!

That’s what happened Wednesday at Pomona State Park, when two buses of nursing home residents arrived to spend the night in cabins at the park and have a camping experience they wouldn’t soon forget.

Somewhat on the spur of the moment, the trip came together after Life Care activities director Tammy Conner was sitting with Agnes outside the center one evening.

“Agnes said she loved sitting outdoors and could sit out there all night,” Conner said. The two talked about being outdoors and Agnes said she would like to go camping again someday.

Conner, who is constantly seeking fun things to do for residents of the center, started thinking about how a camping trip for Agnes and some of the residents could happen. After an internet search, she came across information about Pomona State Park’s handicap accessible cabins. Noting the park was within easy driving distance of Osawatomie, she thought it could provide a great camping experience for the residents, even those with limited mobility.

Conner contacted the park about making reservations, and after talking with park staff, the plan really started to come together.

According to Debbie Rinzler, administrative specialist at the park, she and other park staff and members of the Friends of Pomona State Park began working to make it an unforgettable camping experience.

“We wanted to make it as fun for them as possible,” Rinzler said.

Several local businesses were contacted about providing some special treats, and as it turned out the campers had a late night pizza party by the campfire, courtesy of Green Acres Pizza & Sub, and warm cinnamon rolls for breakfast Thursday morning baked up fresh by Lamont Hill Restaurant.

The park staff and Friends also laid out a schedule of activities that kept the campers busy the entire time, with tour of the park and wildlife in ranger chauffeured utility vehicles; a ranger nature talk; an evening meal of hot dogs and hamburgers cooked outdoors; and s’mores by the campfire.

The two-bus crew arrived Wednesday afternoon. Conner, who took on the camping trip with some trepidation considering the needs of the residents, had contacted her best friend, Jennifer Willard, who works at Prescott Country View, a nursing home at Prescott, Kan. Willard liked the idea and starting making plans for some of her residents to go along on the camping trip. When plans were finalized, the state park donated one night’s stay for one cabin, making the trip economical and fun.

Upon arrival at the cabins, and after settling in as with any campout, Pomona State Park manager Dale Schwieger and Rinzler welcomed the crew, which included four residents and four staff members in each cabin.

“I hope you enjoy your stay,” Schwieger told the group, and let them know the utility vehicles with their park ranger-chauffeurs (Rob Dunham and Jacob Riley) would soon be arriving for a tour of the park.

While Agnes waited for her tour, she talked a little about how she loved to be outside.

“When I told Tammy I wanted to go camping, I didn’t think we really would,” Agnes said. She said she remembered that in her “younger days, we went camping a lot.”

Camping with Agnes were fellow residents from Osawatomie, Edith Chambers, Debbie Overheide and Teresa Covey.

Edith agreed with Agnes that camping was fun. “My husband and I had a camper and we enjoyed traveling a lot. We camped everywhere we went,” Edith said.

Debbie chimed in that her favorite part of camping was s’mores, which she couldn’t wait to have.

While talking about activities planned for the overnight stay, the group learned that Agnes liked the outdoors, but she didn’t like fishing.

“Too much sitting around,” she said.

When it comes to camping, though, “I enjoy every bit of it,” Agnes said. She pointed out she had gotten a new shorts outfit for the trip, along with a straw hat.

As it happened, though, a planned fishing and “sitting” trip on Thursday morning was cancelled due to an overnight downpour. Luckily the campers were in the state park’s homey cabins instead of a tent.

Conner said she had worried the trip could be too tiring for the residents, noting their activity level while camping would be more than usual, especially for Agnes, who is 91 and under hospice care.

Contacted Friday, after the crew made it home safe and dry, Conner said the trip turned out better than expected.

“We couldn’t ask for a better setup than those cabins,” Conner said. She said they didn’t hear the rain because the cabins were so well insulated. She said that because the cabins are so well made and accessible for those with limited mobility, it made for a wonderful experience.

She said staff had been concerned about difficulties that might be encountered at the cabins, but the ease of access to and in the cabins made the entire trip successful.

She noted the bus could pull up to the sidewalk in front of the cabin; a ramp allowed easy access to the door with wheelchairs, walkers, oxygen tanks and supplies; and the oversized restrooms made for ease of assistance for those who needed it.

While more than two inches of rain fell overnight in the area, it only affected the campers’ morning fishing trip. It was called off, but Agnes didn’t mind, Conner said.

She said the local hospitality helped make a wonderful experience for the campers and staff. Wednesday evening’s pizza party by GAPS, and s’mores served up around the campfire by Friends of Pomona State Park, were a big hit for all.

“Those smores were amazing, and we had enough pizza left over that we even ate cold pizza on the way home for lunch,” Conner said. “It was great.”

Thursday morning, they were greeted at breakfast by warm cinnamon rolls from Lamont Hill, which Agnes enjoyed immensely.

“Agnes had two cinnamon rolls, not just one,” Conner said. “She finished them off.”

Conner said that all of the residents enjoyed the trip, especially Agnes, the instigator. She said Agnes hadn’t been too active recently, “but this camping thing gave her some energy.”

Overall, the group thought the camping trip was fun and planning future trips was the conversation on the way home.

“It was awesome, it was great, we definitely loved it,” Conner said.

She said she will recommend the experience to other nursing homes as a possible activity for their residents. Talk among residents at Life Care Center is that at least two camping trips a year will be needed.

Conner said the assistance and hospitality of park staff, local businesses, and the Friends group ensured the trip turned out easy to plan and enjoyable for the residents.

“I really didn’t do that much, I just wanted to take Agnes camping,” Conner said.

Debbie Overheide, Tammy Conner and Agnes Green enjoy some campground conversation and snacks while relaxing in the cabin.

 

It’s home away from home with curbside service at Pomona State Park’s campground and cabins.


4 Responses to To enjoy the outdoors, Agnes goes camping

  1. Karen Dye says:

    How awesome was this. Great story karen dye

  2. Linda says:

    Agnes' nephew, Bill Jones, and I visited Agnes this past Sunday. She couldn't say enough good things about her camping trip and how everyone took such good care of her. She kept saying she would do it again, if she got the chance. Thank you Tammy Connor for making this trip possible for Agnes and the others. She had a great time and we enjoyed hearing her tell about her experience camping. Thanks again for all you do for the residents of Life Care.

  3. Marilyn Bahney says:

    Thanks for covering this story.

  4. Awbw says:

    I hope you all had a really good time and it seems like you did! The park staff did a great job entertaining you and the Osage Co News site did a great job letting us know about your adventures!

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