Imagine a child, 10 years old from a family of 6 residing in a 2 bedroom home, approximately 900 sq feet in size. He comes from a single parent home where his mom works 2 jobs and finds but mere seconds in which to sit down, hug on and communicate with her children. Every spare moment is spent surviving each day, making sure the bills are paid and her children are accounted for each evening.
The young man has become very familiar with the kitchen and prepares all of his own meals as well as those of his siblings since they are so much younger than he. He has walked them to school and for those who are very young, his mother on the way to work will drop them off at a neighborhood child care center. He notices around the home that dusting doesn’t always take first priority, plates pile up in the sink from the prior night’s meal and trash has a way of missing the garbage can, so without a second thought, this young man will try and maintain the home on a daily basis. He wants to help, after all, he is the man of the family right now and his mother is depending on him.
He does happen to snag some time alone in a a corner of the house, and as his brothers and sisters play in the background, he creates beautiful masterpieces out of aluminum foil. Each animal is handcrafted with no detail omitted as the elephant’s trunk proudly curls and the lion’s mane encircles it’s face in royal fashion. The 10 year old studies each of his masterpieces and dreams of one day becoming an artist, perhaps his work being displayed in galleries around the world for people to marvel at and wonder what inspired such creativity.
Then summer approaches and his mother learns of the Summer Day Camp at The Salvation Army, which includes a week at Camp Paradise located in Kentucky on Dale Hollow Lake. The sound of this possibility is more than what his young mind can soak in. The thought of running free, playing games with friends, swimming in a clean, clear pool, taking rides across the lake, he is simply giddy with excitement. His mother enrolls him and he is off to enjoy weeks of a life that is foreign yet welcome in his eyes!
Upon stepping foot off the bus at Camp Paradise, he breathes in the fresh air and amidst the sound of excited children and adults trying to share instructions, he can make out the sounds of crickets and birds singing. As he makes his way to the bunks, the sweet smell of cedar greets him and he quickly sets down his bag and with sheets, he washed and packed himself, he makes his bed. He receives a guided tour around the camp and sets his eyes upon the pool, the basketball court, the volleyball court, the baseball diamond, the nature trails, the beautiful blue lake, the chapel and the area where horses wait patiently for riders. He’s beaming as are the other children around him because in their current financial state this wouldn’t be a possibility. Vacations are seldom planned and the thought of actually getting to be a kid and just relax is more of a daydream than a reality. But because of donors, each year, this camp, as well as our summer day camp in Nashville are able to operate and provide love, balance, health, leadership, guidance, team building, friendships, creative arts, sports, and memories that will last a lifetime and will be the catalyst for change in their life. With your help, we plant the seeds of hope, mentors along the way water what’s been planted and these children grow into what God has created them to be and soon enough they are planting seeds in the life of another.
Love camps here and love travels as each child departs and heads back home, taking with them a piece of the experience that they will clutch on to and reference back on as they make their way through their reality.
The 10 year old mentioned in this story represents the many children who enter our doors and participate in our programs. We want each one of them to have the chance to “be a kid” and to “feel safe.” And this has been accomplished many times over but only because YOU cared and supported our programming. Thank YOU on behalf of the many kids who are currently in our camp this summer and for the children yet to come!