T-shirt campaign supports Camp Scholarship Fund
Camps are beloved for being quiet places. The foundations of camp and retreat ministry rest in providing people with a still, sacred place to calm their minds and connect with Christ. Throughout the Bible, we see examples of individuals and groups escaping their normal lives to seek God’s will in the wilderness and to experience awe in the wonder of God’s creation.
But since people have been asked to shelter in place, our gates have been closed to the public and it feels too quiet. We’re used to the sounds of dozens of students here for our daily After School Adventures program and we miss the sounds of hundreds of families, youth and adults gathering here on weekends to grow and learn together. Without those sounds, this place feels empty.
There’s still a lot of uncertainty concerning our summer camp ministry this year. Our staff remains in prayer to discern the best course forward for our campers, staff and their families. But even with all the uncertainty, we can be sure that more students than ever will need financial assistance to make their week at camp possible.
Anticipating an increase in scholarship requests this summer, our staff worked with Sunday Cool, a Christian-owned T-shirt company in Central Florida, to design a limited-edition shirt to support summer camp scholarships, available at bit.ly/scholar-shirt. After covering printing and shipping costs, 100% of funds from shirt sales will benefit the Camp Scholarship Fund. We set up an online store with a modest goal of 50 shirts, praying that a little bit of extra help would make a huge difference in the lives of a few students and get them to camp this summer.
Within 24 hours, our donors had doubled that goal.
The campaign is running until April 27. We are blown away by the generosity of our donors. Some have chosen to skip the shirt entirely and give directly to the Camp Scholarship Fund. Many of these donors were recipients of camp scholarships themselves years ago, and they are completing the circle of Christian-giving by making sure that new generations of campers get the same chance to experience Christ in new and powerful ways during a life-changing week of summer camp. We have been humbled to see the generosity of so many people who themselves are in the midst of economic uncertainty but know that the gift of summer camp is a worthy investment in the future of our church.
In 2019, 749 campers attended a week of overnight camp with scholarship assistance. On our scholarship applications, families give an estimate of their household income and students provide a brief statement explaining why they want to attend camp this summer. Here are some of the ways students have responded to that question:
“I want to go to summer camp because it has been a home to me for the past nine years. Some of my greatest memories come from there. It has brought me back to God many times.”
“... I always have so much fun meeting new people and learning about God in a way I never have before.”
“... because after going to camp last summer I’ve become more engaged in my youth group. I made new friends and I can’t wait for summer to do it all over again!”
Our staff continues to work with local and state agencies, as well as national camping ministry leaders, to determine the best time to re-open our gates and return to ministry. With so many questions, however, we believe one thing strongly: at the end of this quarantine, students are going to need summer camp. They will be hungry for time outdoors, independent of their parents, to play together, explore nature and grow closer to Christ. We want to make sure that these experiences are available to every single student. It is an awesome blessing to see that so many share in that desire.
-- Tanner Smith is the program hospitality coordinator at Warren Willis UMC Camp and Conference Center.
Watch the video for more about the campaign: