As Hidden Acres prepared to introduce and inform our many supporters about our new Camper Subsidy Fund at our 50th anniversary benefit concert I had a few butterflies in my stomach.
Would people get it? Would our supporters understand why it is so impor-tant that any camper who wishes to go to camp should not be denied because of finances? Would they realize what one week away at camp can mean for a low-income single mother and her family? Would they be moved to contribute, or would it flop?
Fortunately they did get it, contributing $15,000 towards the fund that evening. However, this made me reflect on why camp is so important. Why, when there are thousands of causes to contribute to, should camps make the cut? Here are just a few reasons why we know that a camp experience can make a real difference:
- You can run around cheering and yelling with your face painted and no one will look at you funny.
- You will meet a whole cabin of new friends
- You can eat your pudding without a spoon. (Shhh . . . . Don’t tell your parents).
- You will leave with lots of songs that will be stuck in your head for the rest of the year!
- Nothing beats hitting a bulls-eye in archery, reaching the top of the climbing wall or finishing the perfect “gimp” bracelet.
On a more serious note
- Risk-taking. Campers will learn to step outside of their comfort zone in a safe environment and be encouraged to grow into their potential.
- Campers are given a chance to grow in their faith, develop socially and experience independence in a supportive space.
- Campers have the opportunity to build relationships with positive young-adult role models.
- Being active. After a whole day of climbing, canoeing, sports, games, swimming and more, campers realize how much fun it is to be outdoors and active!
- Taking a break from technology . . . something we could all use. Camp is a great time to unplug ourselves and connect with nature.
How churches and individuals can help
- Churches can consider providing subsidies to campers in their congregation and providing financial support to staff who choose to work at a Christian camp, instead of taking a higher-paying job elsewhere.
- Consider making a donation towards camper subsidies at a camp in your province.
- Encourage the children and youth in your life to give camp a try!
- Encourage youth and young adults to work or serve at Christian camps and recognize the valuable role this experience can play in leadership development.
- Pray for the camp ministries in your area.
One particular e-mail we received after last summer has really stuck with me. Matthew, who attended our Supported Young Adults Camp thanks to a camper subsidy, reflected on his experience to his grandmother: “He had nothing negative to say about camp at all. He thought the leaders were great and he said, ‘They all like me.’ ”
All of the points listed above boil down to Matthew’s statement that camp is a place to be liked, to experience God’s love and to belong. That is why it is so important.
Tina Wheaton is Hidden Acres Mennonite Camp’s assistant director.