Congregations raise more than $1,600 to help send students to camp


By Kara Witherow, Editor

This summer, eight students from Ray City and Community United Methodist Churches will attend Camp Connect summer camps at Epworth By The Sea on St. Simons Island. It will be each student’s first time attending church camp, and through fundraisers, a lot of hard work, and the generous support of the congregations and communities, they’re able to go with little or no cost to them.

Two fundraisers – a spaghetti supper and a chicken supper – were held to raise the money each youth needed to be able to attend camp, and between the two, more than $1,600 was given toward the cause. That’s nearly enough to cover the entire $300 registration fee for each of the eight campers, said Rev. Don Bridges, who pastors both churches.

“Both churches made commitments to ensure that not a single student would not be able to go because of a lack of funds,” Rev. Bridges said.

That commitment came with a lot of hard work, as parents and youth all pitched in to make the dinners successful. Adults cooked and students sold tickets and served the meals.

Dining in the church fellowship hall, patrons were treated as if they were eating in a restaurant. One student greeted them as they entered, another led them to their table and seated them, another served their drinks, and another took their order and served their food. 

Knowing that they’re able to go to camp for the first time is exciting, says Holly Schools, whose 14-year-old son, Caleb, will be attending camp for the first time this summer.

“It almost made me want to cry to see everybody who came to support them. It was a great outpouring and we couldn’t have asked for any better support from our congregations.”

Ray City and Community UMCs held their first confirmation classes this year and several people have been baptized, said Rev. Bridges. The youth group has become active and, when the idea of Camp Connect was introduced, several were immediately interested. 

“I’ve been to Epworth many times and have enjoyed my experiences, so I had a sense that the students would really enjoy the opportunity to experience the environment and the camps,” Rev. Bridges said.

In the nine years Schools has attended Ray City UMC she can’t remember a group of students attending Connectional Ministries’ summer camp at Epworth By The Sea. As a group of parents and students, they decided camp was something they needed and wanted to experience.

“The kids are so excited about going. It’s a new adventure. They’ve never been to church camp before and I think it’s going to help them grow spiritually, and that’s what we want,” Schools said. “We want them to do things that will lift them up and help them grow.”

Helping campers grow closer to Christ is the main goal of Camp Connect. This summer’s camp theme, Wonder, will have students recognizing God’s handiwork throughout creation, in each of them, and everywhere they look. Camp days are filled with outdoor activities like the ropes course, boat rides, dock fishing, competitions, beach trips, and pool time. Campers come together each evening for worship and sharing among friends. These environments, away from the typical daily distractions, help each camper grow in his or her relationship with Christ.

“We love to hear of our local churches putting such a high priority on summer camp,” said Suzanne Akins, Camp Connect’s camp director. “Sometimes it just takes a week away from normal schedules and distractions to really focus on their relationship with Christ, and to have the support of their parents and church friends, both in prayer and financially, makes the experience so much richer!”

Camp Connect summer camps are available for rising fourth through rising ninth-grade students and run June 13 through July 22 at Epworth By The Sea on St. Simons Island. Click here for more information about Camp Connect summer camps.