Favorite Things from Last Week (June 11)

It was a great start to the summer enrichment program, Elevate. We will be hosting this program throughout the month of June, in partnership with the school district.

We had some great last minute news. Because we are associated with the summer school program, we were eligible for free snacks, which will begin this week through USDA grant. Also, school staff, churches, and other individuals have continued to generously donate resources. What does this mean? We are going to run this summer camp at no cost to families! (Friday field trips, sponsored by out-of-town churches, will still require a $5-per-child fee; this charge commits the child to that spot.)

But the best part of our week had little to do with money, and everything to do with loving relationships, educational enrichment, and fun experiences.

Loving Relationships

My favorite part of the week was the many volunteers who contributed, not counting the three college interns, my wife, or myself. As in the case of mentors, relationships are more important than programming.

Tops on the list were the two moms and four teenagers from Greenville, who spent the entire week with us. They raised money via a volleyball tournament, so that they could spend a week in Allendale, in addition to providing snacks, art supplies, and gifts for the kids. Tears were shed when they left after lunch on Thursday.

Other faithful volunteers included: three local high school student-athletes (who served at camp all day, then went to practice), a student from Patrick Henry (who was in my chemistry class), and Ms. Gill (who serves in the schools all year long). We also had a group of folks from Savannah River Remediation (who spent the day with us and also provided snacks and gifts), and a few other community members volunteered their time.

In conversations throughout the week, and especially in our daily journaling time, our campers spoke more deeply about who they met, as opposed to the things they did. As one student wrote, “My favorite thing about this camp is that we meet really cool friends.”

Educational Enrichment

We did not have the goal of providing intense remediation or tutoring. But we did purpose to provide mental stimulation in the form of educational activities and strategy-related games. Even more, we wanted to use our camp to encourage and incentivize children to go to summer school remediation (since they could stay afterwards).

And while relationships are primary, programming is important as well. My wife and one of the interns (Anna) put together about 90% of the programming and schedule. They focused on the theme “I want to be” — encouraging children to dream big about their career plans. One special treat was a visit from EMS workers, where the children explored the inside of an ambulance, tried out a stethoscope, and even asked questions about babies being delivered.

The local Clemson Extension agent, Karissa Ulmer, made the first of several planned appearances in June. She brought in 30 chicken eggs and an incubator. After teaching about embryology, children were encouraged to guess how many eggs would hatch after 3 weeks. I guessed 25.

Fun Experiences

The campers showed their creativity in arts and crafts. They demonstrated their athletic prowess in sports. And they proved their competitive spirits in board games. And have you ever seen Futbol Football (i.e., soccer played with a football)? Check it:

The highlight of the week was a trip to Bradley Beach (Hilton Head Island), sponsored by First Presbyterian Church of Hilton Head. A dozen adults left Allendale on Friday with 60 students, to join staff and members of this church at Bradley Beach. For almost half of our students, it was a first trip to any beach (despite the ocean being only 80 miles away).

I’m going to be honest — I woke up Friday morning with a sickening, worried feeling. What in the world are we about to do? We’re taking all these kids to the BEACH?!?! At the least, my anxiety made my prayer time that morning extra intense.

But words cannot describe how great of a time we had. No serious injuries (besides kids learning about what salt water does to your eyes and mouth, and a handful of splinters due to bare feet on the boardwalk). You can see a good photo of some of our group in the ocean, and you can see more pictures on the Elevate Facebook page (and don’t forget to follow @ElevateKids on Twitter).

We’re thankful for everyone who contributed time and/or resources to get our summer camp off to a great start. Pray for us as we get rolling into week 2 with much fewer volunteers. (I’ll be gone a full day, as will three of our teenage volunteers.)

This week’s theme: Olympics Week!

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