Summer camp challenges campers to 'be altered'

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Summer camp challenges campers to 'be altered'

March 25, 2005    News media contact:  Tita Parham*    
407-897-1184     Orlando  {0267}

n  Warren W. Willis Summer Camp receives national accreditation.

An e-Review Feature
By John De Marco**

VIERA — The Florida Conference summer camping staff is gearing up for 10 weeks of fun and ministry that will forever shape the lives of children and youth. 

The theme for Summer Camp 2005 is "Be Altered," symbolizing the leaders' desire to see campers move beyond a fun experience to lasting transformation. The series of summer camps begins May 30 and runs through the week of July 27, taking place at the Warren W. Willis United Methodist Youth Camp in Leesburg.

"We have a lot of campers that come back summer after summer, and we want this summer to be a time when they really leave recognizing that God is calling them to live an altered life — different from when they came to camp," said Heather Pancoast, assistant summer camp director.

The curriculum and teaching for each week will dovetail with the biblical importance of altars, culminating in Christ as the final and perfect sacrifice for all. Throughout each week of camp an ancient altar will gradually be constructed, replaced by a cross on commitment night. The youngest campers will have the opportunity to walk through a series of stations at which Bible stories featuring an altar being used or built will be re-enacted.

Separate from the Willis camp events, conference staff will also conduct the customary two weeks of "Creative Spirit" camp at the Life Enrichment Center (LEC) across the street from the youth camp. Campers will study drama, dance, clowning, puppets, music and other worship arts. Another week offers an Appalachian Trail hike, while still another features a "Wilderness Week," all geared toward a limited group of high school students. High School Group Week is also specifically for high school students and is a week at camp set aside for church youth groups who want to spend time together as a complete unit. It takes place at the LEC.

The Florida Conference Summer Camp Boosters are sponsoring a work weekend to help prepare the camps for the start of camp. Former summer camp team members, campers and other interested individuals are invited to participate in work projects to clean up and repair the grounds and facilities during the Memorial Day weekend May 28-30.

LEESBURG — Florida Conference summer camps offer youth lighthearted opportunities to "put on a new face," but organizers of this year's summer camps hope youth will experience a lasting transformation on the inside, as well. Photo by the Rev. David L. Adams, Photo #05-0149.

The weekend will play upon the history and tradition of team members arriving early to get the camp ready for the children and youth. The weekend culminates in a worship time Monday morning, and lodging and food are free for workers who stay at the youth camp.

The Summer Camp Boosters are also sponsoring a leadership team reunion Labor Day weekend, Sept. 2-4. The event is planned for anyone who has served on the summer camp team in the past. The last such reunion occurred in 1998 at the camp's 50th anniversary celebration. Future reunions are planned for every five years.

Pancoast said the camp staff is currently gathering contact information for former team members in order to invite them to the reunion. Those who have information for team members should contact her at

"A mailing will take place in April or May," she said. "The more addresses we have of past team members, the more people we can get in touch with."

The summer camp program and the Warren W. Willis Camp facility recently earned ACA-Accredited Camp status. This involves verification from the American Camp Association that the camp complied with up to 300 industry-established health and safety standards during a visit July 7, 2004. Courts of law and government regulators recognize the criteria as the standards of the camp industry. 

The ACA-accreditation program has a 50-year history and is continually evaluated and updated to reflect current best practice in camps. ACA collaborates with experts from many fields, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Red Cross and other youth-serving agencies to ensure required practices are current and sound. ACA standards are revised based on research in the public, legal, youth development and camp arenas. 

"We recognize that ACA camps set the standard for the industry," Pancoast said. "For us, it is a regular, independent health and safety audit of camp operations. For parents, the ACA-accredited camp sign symbolizes excellence and our accountability and ongoing commitment to the children we serve."

The camp's participation in the American Camp Association also provides:

LEESBURG — The cross on the lake at the Warren W. Willis United Methodist Youth Camp here reminds campers of their call as Christians. Photo courtesy of the Florida Conference Summer Camp Ministry, Photo #05-0150.

n  A connection in Washington — ACA monitors important public policy areas, tracking current and proposed legislation and anticipating issues that may affect the camp community.  
n  Nationwide publicity — ACA public relations outreach includes local and national media campaigns; a parent-focused Web site,; and an annual family publication, CAMP.  
n  Ongoing staff training — Staff learn best practices in all areas of camp operation in preparation for the ACA Accreditation Standards Visit.  
n  Hundreds to thousands of dollars of savings — Discounts available only to ACA camps on insurance, food, credit card processing, staff recruitment services, staff training, program materials, education and more.

For more information about this year's summer camps or Camp Boosters events, e-mail Mike Standifer at or Heather Pancoast at Summer camp scholarships are also being offered. Scholarship forms are available at and due by April 1.


This article relates to the Summer Camp Ministry/Discipleship and Spiritual Formation.

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**De Marco is a commissioned minister of the Florida Conference and a freelance writer, speaker and consultant.

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