Every summer many moms and dads look forward – with a mix of joy and trepidation – to the week they get to spend kid-free while their little ones are at sleep-away camp.
For many kids, camp is a part of growing up: an opportunity to leave the safety of home and family to strike out on their own to meet new people and have new experiences. Generations of Americans have done it and received life-long memories in the bargain.
But for some kids, camp is vacation from neighborhood bullies and gangs, benign (or not-so-benign) neglect, the sound of gunshots and sirens. and the struggle to get three meals a day. That is, if they can get to camp at all.
If they do, it’s often the first time some have ever gotten to leave the inner city neighborhood they call home. It’s hard to imagine, but many will see a mountain stream, a squirrel, or a pine cone for the first time in their lives.
These same kids get to experience summer camp because someone like you made a financial gift to make it happen.
Do gooders like you donate to send some body else’s kids to camp.
–Kids in the foster care system who are still waiting for someone they can call mom or dad.
–Kids from your neighborhood whose moms and dads often have to choose between paying bills or putting food on the table.
–Kids in witness protection who are forced to embrace a new identity and a new name.
–Kids whose mom or dad is deployed overseas, serving in the US military.
But when their week at camp is over and they unpack their duffel bags, they’ll find memories of things like toasted marshmallows, conquering their fear on the rope course, or a cool dip in the lake on a warm afternoon.
They’ll also find a self-confidence they didn’t know they had and friends with shared experiences that we hope will last a lifetime.
But mostly, they’ll bring home love – the deep and abiding love of a God that knows what they’re facing and cares about every detail. A God who will walk beside them for the rest of their lives.
Thank You for being the kind of person who wants to give every kid a chance to experience the life-changing things camp has to offer.
History of Salvation Army Summer Camp
Today’s camps had their beginnings in the early 1890s. Like all of The Salvation Army’s efforts, the camping program began in an attempt to improve the quality of life for families, especially those living in the ugly, squalid inner cities. In those days, The Salvation Army would take needy mothers and children on “fresh air” outings, traveling by train or trolley for a day-trip to the country. It provided struggling families with a much-needed break from the hot, crowded city. Records from 1913 indicate that — in a single summer — nearly 50,000 mothers and children enjoyed a day in the fresh air.
Then, as now, The Salvation Army recognized that children’s experiences and relationships can have a profound effect on their futures. Camp provided a perfect
opportunity to make a long-lasting and positive impact. By teaching the Gospel to youngsters — and at the same time introducing them to the beauty of the countryside that was so different from the rat-infested tenements they called home — camp opened needy children’s eyes, minds and hearts to a whole new future of endless possibilities.
Early on, The Salvation Army acquired property so they could better assist the growing number of underprivileged kids. In 1903, they bought a farm in Spring Valley, New York, complete with orchards and a lake, to provide a summer retreat for ailing children and their mothers. Their efforts expanded in the early 1920s, with the development of camps outside Boston, Chicago and Philadelphia.
In the beginning, accommodations were simple: Records from one camp in 1923 indicate that the children slept in tents and used the barn for meals, rainy
day gatherings and a meeting place. During the 50s and 60s, camps were modernized, with cabins, cots and indoor plumbing. Activities included sports, hiking, Bible studies, singing, storytelling and more.
For many youngsters — who had never been out of the city — it was the first time they had ever seen wildflowers, held a turtle or had enough to eat.
Time changes everything, of course, and over the years there have been many improvements. While every camp is different, the range of activities offered was expanded to include tennis, basketball, soccer, boating and more — as well as the traditional activities like Bible studies and arts and crafts. Some camps offer ropes courses to teach boys and girls confidence, trust and teamwork, while others have special “theme” programs, such as “Sports Week” and “Canoeing Week.” There are also camps for children with special needs.
But no matter how much some things change, one thing stays the same: For more than a hundred years, summer camp has helped underprivileged youngsters all over the country experience new opportunities . . . and open their eyes to a future filled with promise.