Controlled Chaos · 19 June 2009

I was recently at a Cascade Community Church Youth Group (C3YG) event. It was an amazing time. Even though I am a teacher, I am not sure how at least 170 teens and pre-teens were kept under more than a semblance of control by Mac Hillabush, Junior High Pastor at Cascade, and his staff of leaders.

The event was the C3YG and YMCA of Snohomish County summer kickoff event called, The Ice Cream Bash. It was surely a social event, but nothing like the ice cream socials of yesteryear. Today’s youth would probably find it dull to sit around and civilly eat ice cream and talk with youth of the opposite sex.

At the Bash, ice cream was launched, caught (actually, more often dropped), and even eaten. Not the stuff that was launched, of course. It was a time of mayhem capped off by a 30 foot sundae, an ice cream trivia contest, and a dunk tank. Mac did a great job leading the controlled chaos.

Ostensibly, I was at the event just to drop off my pre-teen who is entering the youth group and a few of our friends and neighbors. But that did not mean that I did not help launch or eat the ice cream. I got drafted to be part of the ice cream launchers which meant that I was essentially a pole that held onto one end of a surgical tube powered launcher. Our neighbor got drafted to be the other pole.

One of the chosen few who launched for our team kept eating bits of the ice cream projectiles before she placed them into the launcher. She kept giggling, supposing that launching ice cream was fun rather than serious business. She would not have been much help fighting off invading forces. But then again, I am not sure launching ice cream would do much good holding off invaders.

The most absurd thing about launching ice cream (as if launching ice cream is not absurd enough) was that most of the people wanted to get near where the points of impact were going to be. I suppose that they wanted to be winners of the contest of who could catch the most ice cream. They used several different types of containers and even their hands to catch the projectiles. It was amazing to watch.

Of course, some of the ice cream made it into more than just the containers and hands of the catchers. Hair, bodies, and clothes of some participants were covered with ice cream by the end. No, the ice cream was not acting like flying shrapnel hitting all in its path. Most of the personal ice cream coverage was due to the ice cream ball fights that broke out spontaneously during launching. (I am sure Mac never foresaw that happening.) By the end of the ice cream launching and catching game, it looked like chaos would reign. But when the last ice cream balls were launched, quiet ensued as Mac gathered the youth for the next game.

This same sort of seemingly utter chaos happened with all the games – continuous capture the flag and queen bee (a big water fight) – and even spilled over into eating that huge sundae. But after each portion of the evening was completed, the kids lined up to get ready for the next great happening.

To end the evening, several of the youth were selected to participate in an ice cream trivia contest. The winner got several great prizes and the “losers” got to be the first ones into the dunk tank. My son, Thing 2, was the first loser. He guessed that the favorite ice cream topping was whipped cream rather than chocolate syrup. I am sure he thought that our family favorite must be everybody’s. He clapped as he was ejected from the contest area as the first loser. He wanted to be dunked.

When all was said and done, I drove home with four happy youth. They got their fill of ice cream. And one of them got to rinse off in the clean water before many of the youth took their turns getting dunked. (Believe it or not, there was a line for the dunk tank when we left.)

It was truly a wondrous event that all the kids enjoyed. I was amazed at the skill Mac and his leaders used to keep the kids having fun in a safe environment. A middle school mob had a great time launching, catching, eating ice cream, playing games, and just being kids. For me, the best part of the evening was knowing that my kids would be exposed to positive role models in a safe place when they attend C3YG events. And I am glad that there are still places where kids can be kids and have fun. Without needing to be too cool or too grown up.

© 2009 Michael T. Miyoshi

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