Christ-King Catholic School Principal Tara McMillan is certainly a terrific sport.
The McMillan 24 Hr. Bookworm Camp Out kicked off June 15th at 8 a.m.
“At the beginning of the year I always challenge students to so many hours of reading for our home reading program called the ‘Bookworm Club’,” she said. “If they can reach the goal by the end of the year, I will do something crazy. Last year I permanently dyed my hair rainbow colours. This year I told them that if they could reach 5,000 hours of home reading time, I would camp on the school roof for 24 hours.”
Reflecting on the experience, McMillan said it turned out to be a fun one – and lots of friends and colleagues popped by to wish her well, too.
“I started to haul things up at about 7:30 a.m. It was more work than what I expected,” she added with a laugh. “We got a system going of a rope down the hatch – we were tying things up and hauling them upwards so that was a lot easier. Once I was up there with my stuff, it was just a matter of setting up the tent. It went fairly smoothly, although I think I’ve only set up a tent once or twice in my life,” she said.
“Normally when I go on the junior high camping trip, I have the students there to help me – but not this time. It was just me!
“I think the biggest thing I tackled was trying to peg down my tent – I ended up going to the gym and hauling out all of our dumbbell weights and discuss and shot-put balls – everything like that – and I threw them in the tent to help hold it down,” she explained. “Luckily, it wasn’t too windy,” she laughed.
McMillan started sending out Facebook Live posts to keep folks informed about how the day was going.
“I invited kids to come by through the day to visit me,” she said, adding she was set up on the south side of the building facing the highway. “Anybody on the highway could see as they drove by. But I invited the kids to come to the north side of the building where we have a little gazebo area. I told them to come there and yell my name!
“I’d go racing to the other side of the roof and there would be someone there to visit me,” she said. “It was steady – I had brought books and cards and things to entertain myself, but I didn’t even get around to any of that because I spent the day visiting,” she said.
Teachers also dropped by to check in, and they even brought her some lunch. She also had a walkie talkie up there, so at one point she started playing the lyrics I’m So Lonely, I Have Nobody to Call My Own so everyone in the school could hear.
“So then they came and checked on me,” she laughed. “It was just a lot of fun. My visitors brought me so many things – snacks, little toys to keep me company so I wasn’t alone up there. With every visitor I had, I would lower my basket down on the rope, they would put it in and I would pull it back up to the roof. The kids just had a blast!”
As evening unfolded, her biggest concern was what if a storm materialized?
But thankfully, that didn’t happen.
“I kept a pretty close eye on the weather, but it turned out to be beautiful. I think we picked the perfect day to do this,” she said. “It was absolutely gorgeous. My husband and two sons also brought me supper, put it in my basket and I hauled it up.”
It was a quieter time. “By the time I got everything set up and ready, it was probably shortly after 10 p.m.”
McMillan said nighttime was certainly different, but her sense of momentum had been fuelled by the wonderful support she had received through the day. “At no point did I feel, oh maybe I should just pack it in. I was honestly looking forward to the next morning when I’d be able to Facebook Live again and say, ‘I’m still here’!
A bunch of crows started appearing around 4 a.m. so McMillan said there wan’t much sleeping after that.
“I finally rolled out of the tent at about 7 a.m. and did another Facebook Live. Then at 8 a.m. my teachers helped me pack things in and I came down.”
As mentioned, the camp out stems from the annual book club at the school.
“So every year, I challenge the student body to read every week at home. If they can read a certain number of hours as a student body in a year, then I’ll do something funny. Last year, they won the challenge so I dyed my hair rainbow colours so that was fun during the summer. This year, I upped the reading hours – last year, they did 4,500 hours and this year I increased it to 5,000 hours. They actually did 5,014 hours altogether – so up to the roof I went,” she said. “It was really good
“I told my teachers that if it inspired one student to pick up a book and read one this year, I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat! I’m already planning next year’s challenge – not sure what it’s going to be, but it’s got to be good!”