Chocolate cake

Camp time and chocolate cake

I love camping. Growing up, I had great experiences at Camp Greene Girl Scout Camp, and my kids loved their experiences and friendships that grew at 4-H Camp Clifton. On our farm, we organize a cross-country camp for the high school team, our son-in-law coaches. And sometimes we just have a very informal “cousin camp at grandma’s house” for my grandkids.

But this week, I visited Flying Horse Farms’ most amazing camp in Mt. Gilead, Ohio. The camp is located on a beautiful farm in the hills of central Ohio. This is a camp for children with serious illnesses. It is a specialized medical camp where these children can grow, heal and survive.

When you arrive at Flying Horse Farms, there is a large, beautiful red barn, much like the one in the children’s book Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown. On top of the barn is a weather vane – with 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 behind their worries about their illness” and come into camp just to have fun and be a kid! On site, there is an incredible medical and psycho-social team, and a state-of-the-art emergency care service.

The campers stay is made up of cabins and I was able to visit one of the empty cabins. They were equipped with bunk beds and a wooden chest allowing each camper to store his belongings. On each bed was a patchwork quilt, made by volunteers. They were all different and the kids were able to take them home at the end of their camp week — so special for them!

I visited the kitchen and saw where children could make good food choices and learn about food. I visited the Happy Times Wood Shop where volunteers helped children learn how to use tools and helped them make projects out of tools. The pool was amazing and designed to accommodate children with many disabilities. Many had never been in a pool before, and now they were learning to swim. They were all under personalized medical supervision.

Watching the kids climb the climbing wall, I saw how excited they were and cheered them on when they reached the top. I would have been scared to do the ropes course and zipline myself, but they were all harnessed up and very safe, and so excited about their accomplishments. As one camper said, “I loved being around other kids who were like me. It was truly a magical place!

Camp has wonderful hospital partners from many 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 the recent Flying Horse Farms post, they shared an allergen-free birthday cake recipe. Reading the recipe, I realized it was like my Mix-in-the-Pan cake recipe, which contains no eggs or milk, and can be made with gluten-free flour. Here is my recipe. You can mix it in a bowl or directly in the pan. It’s also great for cupcakes.

Chocolate cake to mix in the pan

3 cups flour

1 1/2 cups sugar

6 tablespoons cocoa powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon of salt

Measure these ingredients into a 9-inch x 13-inch cake pan (or bowl). Mix. Make 3 holes. Put each of them in a hole:

2/3 cup oil

2 tablespoons of vinegar

2 teaspoons vanilla

Pour over everything:

2 cups of 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.

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