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Campers dressed in full armor raise their do-it-yourself weapons in defense of their cardboard castle. Mark Dionne/Town Times
Jack Huscher peers out the eye slot of his cardboard helmet during DMYFS' program Ellie Castiglia uses her shield to create some shade for herself during the last day of For a few days during the summer, the Middlefield Community Center had a cardboard gate, complete with a defender in Michael Burford. Mark Dionne/ Town Times Hanna Balay created a hammock for one of her spirit animals, a walrus. Mark Dionne/ Town Times Sam Castiglia sat on the throne usually reserved for the Master of Cardboard.

Cardboard brings fantasy to life in Middlefield


The Middlefield Community Center and its surrounding grounds were transformed into battlefields, fantasy landscapes, design studios, and homes for mythological creatures as a group of local children became knights, wizards, and kings for four days, from Aug. 4-7.

The program, called “Dungeons, Dragons, and Duct Tape,” attracted more than 20 children in grades 5-9. Cardboard was a central feature of the camp, so much so that many of the participants called it “Cardboard Camp.” Campers made weapons, armor, mazes, creatures, a dragon, and a castle with a working drawbridge out of cardboard.

The camp was run by Durham Middlefield Youth & Family Services, Heather Kannam of Durham, and a crew of supervisors with a grant from the Coginchaug Valley Education Foundation. Betsy Dean, Executive Director of DMYFS, said, “I wanted to offer a program that was pure fun, no stress, just being as creative as they can be. I think this program hit all of those buttons.”

Campers fought with cardboard weapons and played capture the flag with cardboard dungeons.

Campers choose new names and identities. Justin Palardy, a 10-year-old from Rockfall, became a wizard named Galactic Caster. “I thought it would be a good idea,” Justin explained. When asked his favorite part of the camp, Justin said, “All of it. I can’t pick a favorite.”

The same question drew a similar response from Justin’s twin brother Logan, who went by the camp name Sky Warrior. “I like everything,” Logan said.

Logan created what he called “a pick ax with a spear thing” and, like his brother, pointed to the spikes running up the cardboard dragon’s back as something he liked working on.

The winged and spiked dragon was the largest but not the only animal at “Dungeons, Dragons, and Duct Tape.” Each camper received a spirit animal and had to create its identity and home.

Michael Burford of Durham, who went by Dracodeus, carried his spirit animal, an altered stuffed snake, around camp because his snake did not need to stay in a home. “We made habitats and I didn’t want to make a big habitat so I made him a cyborg so he could download his habitat,” Michael said.

The donated cardboard allowed campers to indulge creative whims and also had the advantages of being lightweight, sturdy, and not particularly precious. Talia Caldwell-Andrews of Rockfall demonstrated all three of those qualities by tossing boxes far through the air to deliver them to a fellow camper. “I like to help,” said Talia, hurtling a box over her head. “I think the camp inspires creativity and imaginative stuff.”

William Foster of Durham left his name tag blank because his camp name was Anonymous. The mysteriousness kept in line with his chosen camp profession of assassin. Despite being an assassin, William spent a lot of time working on the castle’s drawbridge. The wood-reinforced drawbridge could raise and lower with a yellow chain. “I didn’t enter [the camp] fighting because assassins strike at the least expected time,” William said.

“Dungeons, Dragons, and Duct Tape” ended with a feast. “I’ve had as much fun as them just seeing what they’re doing and taking pictures,” Dean said.



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