Why Our Spring Break Camp Was a Success
One evening, a few weeks before our Elevate spring break camp, I said to my wife, “I’m ready to be done with camp.”
It wasn’t that I didn’t want to have our camp. I knew we would enjoy it, and that it would be a great opportunity for children, and for the volunteers.
I was ready to be past camp because it was consuming my thoughts and time. That’s just how my mind works. I’m always thinking and planning ahead, and it was hard for me to think about and plan the summer with spring break camp looming ahead of us. For me, everything works in terms of numbers and programs and time and resources. It’s the analytical scientist in me.
But I’m glad I didn’t just fast forward through this experience. Because while the numbers showed that our camp was a success, the best part about our camp could not be measured with numbers.
About 50 children (preschool – 8th grade) each day showed up at Allendale-Fairfax Middle School, Monday – Thursday. We began each day at 8AM, though most trickled in between 8:15 and 8:30. We ended each day at 4PM, and most didn’t leave until at least 3:50.
Yes. That’s over 7.5 hours with energetic children.
Of course, we could not do this alone. Like last year (see 7 Ways We Saw God’s Blessings Last Week), we had local college students, adults and teenagers from Greenville and Allendale, and cafeteria staff each play a crucial part.
And besides having great numbers of volunteers this year (which means that more relational energy was able to be poured into children), I think there were some specific additions that made this year even better than last year:
- We had 8 students from Grace Church (4 male, 4 female), versus 5 male teenagers last year. (One of these guys has now been to Allendale 5 times in less than 2 years. He loves it here!)
- I recruited 4 of my football players to serve, and they even brought a few of their friends. Most of these guys volunteered at least 3 of the days.
- A few other students from Allendale-Fairfax High School (who are a part of the Junior Leadership group) led a drug-awareness and healthy choices curriculum each afternoon.
- At least 4 parents (or grandparents) of Allendale children volunteered as leaders. One mom served all day Monday and Tuesday, and even went out to pick up children who didn’t have rides; since she is a mom of 3 boys, we gave her a break and put her with an all-girls group. Another mom served a half-day for all four days.
- Some families from last year came back, and the kids were happy to see them again. Some new families came to Allendale for the first time, and the kids were happy to get to know them.
- Two guys from Community Bible Church (Savannah) led groups. One of these guys was here last summer with CBC, and knew some of the children.
- Sarah Lehman, the 6th grade science teacher at Allendale-Fairfax Middle School, played soccer with us for two mornings. She was a former college soccer player, and she was very excited to put on her cleats again.
Beyond the Numbers
If we just did a camp for 50 kids, and gave 40 people an opportunity to serve, that would be a nice thing. But doing a project / program / event was not our goal. Teaching kids soccer was not our goal. Babysitting kids was not our goal.
As I explained to our out-of-town friends (especially the ones who were nervous that they didn’t know anything about soccer), their main job was to build loving relationships with the children, teenagers, and adults in Allendale.
One of my favorite parts of the week was watching the teenage guys from Greenville connect with the teenage guys from Allendale. Post-camp basketball and football games. Dinner together one night, followed by games of pool. Talks of “We’re coming back to Allendale,” and “We need to get to Greenville.” Phone numbers were exchanged.
And then there were the Greenville parents and Allendale parents who had meaningful conversations about life, children, church, and more. Talks of Allendale kids going to summer camp with Grace Church kids. Phone numbers were exchanged. Do you think that was just people being courteous? Then explain this message I received Friday morning from one of my Greenville friends:
“M_____ called me today to make sure I made it home safe. Such a kind lady. I truly look forward to developing my friendship with her.”
And the relationships are just as important for those of us in Allendale. Think about Mrs. Lehman . . . . What kind of conversations do you think her students will have with her today at school, those students who had fun playing soccer with her. How much more of a connection do you think they have?
I am personally thankful for everyone who made this camp possible. For Grace Church who helped sponsor the cost. For those people and organizations who donated money to cover the cost of food. For the families who took time out of their spring break to come here. For the adults and teenagers from Allendale who could have been sleeping in and relaxing but who came to love on kids.
What you allowed to happen was not about soccer or crafts or a healthy choices class. What you did was enable friendships to be formed between children, teenagers, and adults.
Remember how I wanted to be done with camp? Now I want to replay it in my mind over and over, to remember with joy the bonds of love that are forming and growing stronger.
- Crafting for the Cause of Camp
- Beautiful Like a Flower
- An Outgoing Introvert
- “What’s the Coolest Thing You’ve Seen?”
- The Seeds of Partnership
- A Summer of Relationships and Camps (2013)
- Elevate Spring Break Camp, Round 3 (2014)
- What Do We Know? Not Much. (2014)