Tweenagers rock at lock-in

SIMPSONVILLE — “My goal is to stay up for 24 hours straight, and I’m almost there.”

Those words, spoken by 12-year-old Kelsey Larson, are enough to strike fear in the heart of any parent of a preteen, but they reflect an attitude expected by volunteers at St. Mary Magdalene. Led by Cynthia “Cindy” Roth, director of religious education, the Upstate parish hosted 63 junior high students for an overnight lock-in Oct. 18.

“One of our goals is to let these kids spend time with their Catholic friends in a setting that’s not religious education,” Roth said. “These lock-ins are for fun and fellowship.”

And that is exactly what the young people enjoyed. Kelsey Larson liked meeting new friends during the ice-breakers that began in the evening. Bryce Clevenger, 12, was especially keen about the “snowball fight at 4:30 in the morning.”

Volunteers — both parents and youth from the parish LifeTeen program — used a shaved-ice machine to make barrels of “snow” for the contest. They also provided video games, a movie, music and imagination to keep the kids engaged, and awake, from 7 p.m. until 7 a.m. No one is allowed to leave before the scheduled time, except in the company of his or her parents. But nobody wanted to, anyway.

“A few slept,” said Andrew Alshire, a core member of LifeTeen and an all-night volunteer. “But we woke them with Silly String. We did have a service in the church at midnight, but otherwise it was just a fun atmosphere.”

Sheri Benore, a mother of three attendees, said that Roth and youth director Joseph Maggio had the all-nighter planned so well that it went smoothly.

“It’s very organized. The idea is to keep them busy, so we had no discipline problems at all. The kids were great and they had a lot of fun,” Benore said.

Nicholas Arthur and Brendan Ryan, both 11, agreed with the “fun” part. They liked playing Human Foosball, where kids take the place of the hockey players in the usual table game. And they liked the freedom from normal parental strictures.

“It was fun. We got to stay up all night,” Arthur said.

The lock-in is an annual event at St. Mary Magdalene. The volunteers, especially the teenagers involved in LifeTeen, love the all-nighter, Maggio said, and it is even worth it for bleary-eyed parents to see their children enjoying the “fun and fellowship.”