Saturday 6/24: Divine Liturgy & Goodbye

The end of our week together has finally come. We’ve weathered a few storms, but always saw the beauty in our home for the week and the people with whom we’ve shared so many wonderful memories! After many hugs and a few tears, Session 1 is complete and the campers have all returned home to their families.

The culmination of our beautiful week of Fanari 2017 “The Apostle Paul: Christ’s Great Athelete, A Champion to Imitate” was attending Divine Liturgy before we departed. Fr. Michael Arbanas, Fr. Jim Greanias, Fr. Andrew Kearns, Fr. Anastasios Theodoropoulos and Deacon Chris Avramopoulos celebrated the Divine Liturgy together and chanted a trisagion for Metropoliatan Iakovos, Fr. Bill Chiganos and all those Fanari campers, counselors and clergy who have fallen asleep in the Lord. Eternal be their memory!

Following breakfast, campers said their goodbyes, snapped a few last pictures and we all gathered together to sing the beautiful prokeimenon hymn, “Who is so great a God”. A perfect ending to our blessed week at Fanari Camp.

Our hope is that the campers gained a deeper knowledge of their faith this week and that new friendships were made and old friendships were strengthened. We thank all the dedicated clergy and staff for the time and talents they offered to our program and campers this week. None of this is possible without their dedication to the youth of our Metropolis.

Farewell, Session 1 campers. Onward to Session 2!

Click here for Session 1 Day 7 Photos!

Friday 6/23: Skit Night

We can’t believe it was our final full day at camp!  The weather was absolutely perfect for us- a warm, sunny day with a cool breeze. It’s time to say goodbye to our home for the past week, and cherish all the memories we’ve made together.

We began our day with a sweet breakfast treat of cinnamon  banana french toast. Following breakfast, campers headed to their morning activity rotations. Our Flex session today was Athletics, but since the evening rainfall left our fields too damp, our super counselors led their campers in team building activities in the Log Lodge. By the afternoon, campers were out in the athletic fields, enjoying the beautiful weather!

Everyone got a little workout in OL while having a “planking” competition. One of our campers was able to plank for over 15 minutes! This was to illustrate how even if there is pain or distraction, we must persevere and work to build our endurance- both physically and spiritually, as Saint Paul.

For lunch, we enjoyed enchiladas, quesadillas, fruit salad, and our usual favorite greek salad bar.  We were blessed to be joined by His Grace Bishop Demetrios for lunch. He also offered a small travel Bible as a gift, to remember our time at camp.

Following lunch, campers ran to their final Free-Time and played soccer, basketball and volleyball, made ankle bracelets, visited the Camp Store for the last time, jammed in “garage band” and took one last dip in the pool.

Our last evening activity was the traditional Friday night Skit Night! A big THANK YOU to Chrysanthe Agos for helping coordinate the skits all week in Theater. The campers put on hilarious performances full of jokes, immitations, singing, and some great acting! The 11th graders shared their favorite camp memories and encouraged our younger campers to continue carrying the spirit of Fanari Camp in their hearts. Skit night wrapped up with a video of pictures from our week together, and a spiritual vitamin presented by Alex Magdalinos, who reminded our campers to always follow the two most important commandments: Love God and Love your Neighbor.

Some final meaningful words were shared by Dn. Chris at Closing Day. The late Metropolitan Iakovos of Chicago, of blessed memory, would always express that his favorite part of camp was the gathering of all the campers, staff and clergy, celebrating the Divine Liturgy together. Dn. Chris reminded the campers that the Divine Liturgy is the apex of camp and that we need to prepare ourselves to receive the body and blood of Christ. Our goal is to imitate St. Paul and be athletes for Christ, not only at camp but when we go back to our homes.

Everyone joined in singing the hymn, “Lord of the Powers”, as we were dismissed to our cabins for our last devotionals. Tonight’s topic was Bringing the “Fanari” to our everyday lives. The 11th graders were treated to a bonfire for their last devotional as campers, as they enjoyed some time under the stars together, one last time. We will truly miss them, but look forward to having them back as counselors some day!

What beautiful memories we’ve made in such a short time together! All is finally quiet in camp tonight. We’ll see you tomorrow for Divine Liturgy and our final goodbyes. Good Night, Fanari Camp!

Click here for Session 1 Day 6 Photos!

Thursday 6/23: Picnic Day and Dance

What a truly beautiful, blessed day!  We deviated from our normal daily schedule for our Picnic Day, where we spent the morning together, traveling to different activities.

Our morning began quietly after chapel with “Alone with God” and then  our scrumptious breakfast of waffles, bacon, feta and potatoes, energized us for the day ahead. Some campers started at the “St. Paul Challenge Course”, where the campers rotated through activities representing the different stages of St. Paul’s life.  The first stop was the Road to Damascus through the Proskinitarion Walk in the woods, while blindfolded with Fr. Kosmas. Then campers celebrated St. Paul’s baptism by chanting a baptismal hymn with Alex Magdalinos.  Next was the imprisonment of St. Paul and Silas, where campers illustrated their steadfastness by all working together to stand on a small platform with Fr. Jim.  Finally, campers talked about the stoning of St. Paul, with Fr. Tasso, by reenacting the stoning using dodge balls, with their counselor as the target.  While half the campers were on the “St. Paul Challenge Course”, the other campers were playing Trivia with Anthony Ruggerio. There was a large variety of categories in the trivia including sports, world history, pop culture, Greek History, Geography and church.  They also  had a Q&A about the Divine Liturgy and the meaning of the items on the atlar table, with Fr. Kearns.  

Then it was picnic time with some delicious souvlaki grilled by Deacon Chris, Arun and James. Fresh cut watermelon, chips and lemonade rounded out our lunch. Campers were free to roam around and play basketball, soccer, or volleyball, while others  stayed inside playing board games, or finishing up their tie dye shirts. Our 11th graders also enjoyed a dip in the pool on this hot and humid day. The highlight of free time was “Maria’s Wacky Wagon Ride” where campers toured the grounds on Farmer Joe’s tractor ride and visited the barn to see the animals. Free time concluded with our annual Counselor vs Camper softball game, with our undefeated champions, the Counselors, continuing their legacy. Such a full and fun day at Fanari Camp!

Dinner tonight was one of the best yet! Burgers, chicken wings, mac and cheese! Over 80 of our campers received CampGrams during dinner tonight and loved hearing from their loved ones at home!

Our Blast From the Past Dance, with DJ Chrysanthe Agos, kept the high energy of the day at an all time max! Campers came decked out in their “decades gear” with poodle skirts, tie dye, 80’s side ponytail, and platform sneakers. We danced to our favorite oldies like “Dancing Queen”, “Footloose”, “Hand Jive” and some New Kids on the Block.  Some campers took a break and listened to Mr. D tell stories around our fireplace outside, while Fr. Andrew and Fr. Michael helped pass out supplies to make s’mores. What a neat treat after a long day!

After the dance, our Closing Day “spiritual vitamin” was given by Mr. D. We heard about a man named Louie who found Christ later in life and sought to reconcile with all those that hurt him before. Though one man refused to meet with him, Louie never stopped trying. Mr. D wants us to remember that we should open our hearts to Christ as Louie did and seek reconciliation from those in our lives; even if they refuse, we should never stop reaching out.

Our Spirit Stick winners tonight were the Olympians and Delphians for showing awesome sportsmanship and spirit throughout the day! The campers are peacefully in their beds and await our last full day at Fanari Camp.

Click here for Session 1 Day 5 Photos!

Wednesday 6/21: Arts & Crafts, Confession, Fanari Games

Halfway through the week and the sun finally shone for our Session 1 campers!  We can’t believe how fast the time is flying by!

Today we prepared for Holy Communion at the Divine Liturgy on Saturday, by receiving the Sacrament of Holy Confession during Orthodox Life.  Fr. Greanias, Fr. Georgiou, Fr. Arbanas,  Fr. Kerkeres, Fr. Kearns, and Fr. Lamberis were all available during our OL session to hear confessions.

Our Flex activity today was Arts & Crafts, lead by Alex Magdalinos, where we created mosaics using a printed icon of Christ and gluing tile pieces all around. We are happy our campers will be bringing home their icons to venerate each day and remember their time at Fanari Camp.

CampGrams were passed out after lunch today, and even our very own counselor Evalina recieved one from her parents! This is only a one way messaging system, so campers can’t reply, but we’re positive that they’ll have lots to tell you about their week on the way home Sunday.

It was blue skies and a sunny day, as we enjoyed our first free-time outside this week!  Campers played basketball with their counselors and Fr. Tasso, enjoyed ice cream bars that were generously donated in honor of Nun Theologia, played in a large soccer game, took their swim tests and tie-dyed t-shirts with Connie Savas. So many fun opportunities to fill our day!

Tonight’s evening activity was the highly anticipated Fanari Olympic Games!  The campers brought unmatched energy and awesome team unity, while they played their hearts out.  In the end, the Athenians were victorious and earned the most points for the big win!  They get the honor of carrying around our new Fanari Games Trophy for the rest of the week, to proudly display their victory! Two spirit sticks were also given out to the Delphians, for their creative beach theme and outstanding leadership, and the Olympians, for their great sportsmanship and enthusiasm! Well done!

Our spiritual vitamin during Closing Day was given by Anthony Ruggerio, who illustrated that everything and everyone in your life was placed there for a reason.  What a thought-provoking talk!  Before dismissal our voices filled the chapel as we sang some of our favorites Fanari songs, “Deep” and “Take My Hand”.

After the Athenians and Olympians were dismissed, Deacon Chris talked to the Spartans and Delphians about the recent passing of the late Metropolitan Iakovos of Chicago. His vision and dream for this retreat center is the reason we are all here today. He loved the children of our metropolis and enjoyed visiting with them every Thursday for our picnic day for many, many years. His hope was that the children would sing the hymns of the church with the same vigor and love as they do with our camp songs. In his honor, we ended the night singing the hymn, “Lord of The Powers” with Fr. Kallis, Fr. Theodoropoulos and Deacon Chris. May his memory be eternal!

Another energizing and uplifting day here at Fanari Camp!  All the campers are tucked into bed and the camp is all quiet now.  We can’t wait to see what blessings tomorrow will bring. Goodnight!

Click here for Session 1 Day 4 Photos!

Tuesday 6/20: Chanting and Sing-a-long

It’s already Tuesday, and what a full day it was! A full day of fun, singing and new experiences at Fanari Camp!

Our Flex session today was Chanting. Alex Magdalinos reviewed the basics of byzantine chant and the hymns that we sing throughout the day and in chapel. Campers also learned the hymn for St. Iakovos, the patron saint of our retreat center, and St. Paul, our theme for the week. The voices of our campers were filled with love, as they beautifully sang the hymns with one another.

A big THANK YOU to all the families who have sent CampGrams to your campers. We print them out everyday and pass them out after lunch. This is a new feature through and we are thrilled that so many of you are participating. After today’s delivery, everyone gathered with their letters to take a picture for you all to see! We know it’s hard not talking to your campers everyday, but they’ll have lots of exciting stories to tell you when they arrive back home! If you haven’t checked it out yet, you can login to your registration to purchase tokens and send some!

Once again, the rain arrived just in time for free-time. Campers kept busy in the Main Lodge, visiting the Camp Store, playing card games, coloring, making friendship bracelets, eating ice cream bars and just hanging out with one another. Some campers chose to kick back and enjoy watching “Despicable Me” in the cafeteria, too! Sometimes a rainy day is the perfect time to relax and enjoy each other’s company!

Because of the earlier rain, we switched up our schedule for our evening activites with two different rotations. The night began for the Spartans and Delphians with an epic battle of “The Song Game” under the carport! Cabins created choreography and a song to the word that was given to them. We hope you checked us out on Facebook Live! So much fun and creativity!!! At the same time, the Athenians and Olympians began their night discussing the meaning of relics and how we honor and remember the saints by venerating them. The campers enjoyed watching a “Be the Bee” video about relics and how the campers at Ionian Village in Greece, visit the Island of Zakynthos to venerate the relics of St. Dionysios.

At Closing Day, one of our Staff Directors, Chris Chakonas, talked about his path to becoming closer to the church and that there are beautiful stories of miracles that happen every day, which we can use to strengthen our faith as Orthodox Christians.

Spirit Sticks were given out to the Olympians and Delphians! They were honored today for all their enthusiasm, kindness and unity throughout the day! Congratulations!

Finally, Fr. George Lamberis blessed us with his guitar skills and spirited singing for our sing-along! We sang along to some of our favorites: “Deep”, “I Will Magnify the Lord”, “Father, I Adore You”, and “Seek Ye First”. Everything we do together is so fulfilling, as we are one family in Christ at camp, experiencing laughter and joy together in all our activities! What a memorable day at Fanari Camp! Goodnight campers and counselors…see you tomorrow for another blessed day!

Click here for Session 1 Day 3 Photos!


Monday 6/19: OPA!

OPA! Our first full day of  Fanari Camp was Greek themed and full of our great Hellenic Culture.

Our morning began with chapel and an Agismos service, led by Fr. Jim Greanias from St. Iakovos in Valparaiso. Following the blessing, campers went outside for “Alone with God”–a time to sit and be alone with our thoughts in prayer and begin our day focused on Christ.  It was a beautiful way to begin our day and nourish our souls.

After a delicious breakfast, featuring feta eggs, potatoes and Greek yogurt, we headed to our activities to begin our day. Our Flex session today was Greek Culture, lead by Connie Savas, where our campers rotated between 3 stations: Greek dancing, building the Parthenon and learning Tavli. Our campers emersed themselves in our Greek Culture and enjoyed fellowship with each other.

Our Greek themed lunch consisted of Gyros, tzatziki sauce and pitas with olives and lemon. Rain interupted our free time activities, but not the fun that was had! Campers played games, made friendship bracelets and hung out together in their cabins and the Main Lodge. The Camp Store was busy with customers and everyone loved getting some snacks and Fanari Swag to wear. What a blessing it is to see so many friends–new and old–enjoy the day together!

Our Grecian dinner included, chicken, greek style potatoes and spanakopita. Even Yia Yia would approve this menu! Then the campers danced the night away Greek style!!! Big shout-out to our DJ, Chrysanthe Agos, for playing and organizing our music for Greek night. Campers and counselors showed off all the new dances they learned in Greek Culture today. What a great way to recollect and learn about who we are as a culture.

We ended with Closing Day in chapel where we listened to Fr. Kosmas Kallis, from SS. Peter & Paul in Glenview, tell us a story about finding what Christ has sent us out to do in this world. We should hone in on our passion and drive to do that which He wants, just like the Apostle Paul.

Tonight’s 1st Spirit Stick of the summer went out to the Athenians for truly showing they have the Holy Spirit within them all day long! Congratulations!

Before dismissal, Fr. George Lamberis played the guitar and lead us in a lively rendition of “Jesus Loves Me” and then slowed it down as we sang arm in arm,“Seek Ye First”. A beautiful first day at camp, as we learned more about our culture, faith and each other!

Campers are in their cabins now and should sleep well after such a full day! Goodnight Fanari Camp…we are so very thankful for such a blessed day together!

Click here for Session 1 Day 2 photos!

Welcome to Fanari 2017!

Fanari Camp 2017 is off to a great start and we are thrilled to be back home at The St. Iakovos Retreat Center!

After a busy drop-off and registration, all 158 campers got settled into their cabins, said goodbye to their families, and we all gathered in the cafeteria for our first meal together.

Our Director, Deacon Chris, welcomed us all and introduced our cabin staff, core staff and clergy for the week. He also spoke about our rules and responsibilities at camp and went through each of our Daily Activities: Orthodox Life, Bible Study, Theater and Flex, where we will rotate with Greek Culture, Chanting, Arts & Crafts and Athletics each day. Finally, everyone learned about earning spirit coins and how we can show that we have the Holy Spirit within us all week and receive spirit sticks as a cabin each night!

Then it was time for an ice cream social! Vanilla, strawberry or chocolate? You pick the toppings! Everyone enjoyed making their own delicious creations at our very own Orthodox Sundae Bar, while we listened to music, sang outloud and enjoyed each other’s company. We ended our first evening with a beautiful evening chapel service inside the Main Lodge, lead by Fr. Andrew Kearns from Great Lakes Navel Base.

Campers went back to their cabins to do their first evening devotionals with their counselors and get ready for bed. We can’t wait for all the wonderful blessings the rest of the week will bring at Fanari 2017!

Be sure to check out the Metropolis of Chicago Youth & Young Adult Ministries Flickr page, with all our photos from each Session of Fanari Camp this summer.

Click here for Session 1 Day 1 photos!