Ask kids what they like most about overnight summer camp, and they might say canoeing, the ropes course or singing camp songs.
When a child living in poverty answered this question, he said: “The food. Three big meals a day. Desserts at both lunch and dinner.”
For the past several years, people in our community have worked together to send socio-economically vulnerable children to Camp Weaver for a week of overnight camp.
These children have never been on a hike, stayed in a cabin or sat in front of a fire at night under the stars. After a week of camp, they come back to their lives with a renewed sense of confidence and focus. As several of the Camp Weaver staff suggest, “fun is only the beginning” as the real goals at camp are to build confidence and character.
This is all about “leveling the playing field” for all children in our community, said Jamie Cosson, Camp Weaver executive director.
He said research suggests there are three outcomes from a week at camp:
- Children experience a sense of achievement in trying new activities like archery.
- Children develop deep friendships.
- Children experience a deep sense of belonging.
Josiah Artis, a child who lives at Partnership Village, mentioned food and archery as highlights of his Camp Weaver experience.
“Did you know they gave us grilled cheese and bacon sandwiches for breakfast?” he asked. Also he talked about how challenging archery was and yet how he hit the target for a score of 60. Those of us who tutor Josiah at Partnership Village during the school year see how his confidence has grown since his camp experience.
In order to send 20 Partnership Village children to camp, our community works with the families to help make this week a possibility. Tutors from The Servant Leadership School work with the children twice a week during the school year and talk to the children and families the benefits of going to Camp Weaver. Holy Trinity Episcopal Church raises the funds that, combined with the family contribution and Camp Weaver’s generous scholarships, complete the tuition obligation.
The list of camp supplies is long and expensive. Many of the children do not have several pairs of shoes, bathing suits or a flashlight.
Both Guilford College United Methodist Church and Westminster Presbyterian Church have contributed annually to help the families who do not have the supplies required to attend.
Also, this year, a group from Apex Analytix (off New Garden Road, near Jefferson Village Shopping Center), donated and assembled “camp kits” for 20 children going to Camp Weaver.
“Since many of the families living at Partnership Village are focusing on the basics of living such as paying rent and utilities each month and providing food for their families,” said Gin Reid Hall, director at Partnership Village, “these ‘extras” on the camp list would be hard to add to their household budgets.”
The generous community support makes such a difference to the children and families, Hall said.
“We at Partnership Village are most grateful for the helpful donations — from flashlights to hair brushes — that make the amazing experience of attending Camp Weaver a reality for about 20 children in the PV Community each summer,” she said. “Gratitude abounds!”
The Guilford County Family Justice Center a “one stop shop” for victims of domestic violence, also sends children they serve to a week called Camp Hope at Camp Weaver.
“Camp Hope provides children living with domestic violence and trauma a pathway to hope through team building, values-based programming, and high adventure, challenge-by-choice activities,” said Catherine H. Johnson, director of the Guilford County Family Justice Center.
After their week-long overnight summer camp experience, Camp Hope participants continue activities and programming throughout the year. The goal is to create experiences for all participants that increase hope and resilience and change destinies.
“Camp Weaver has been a wonderful partner in supporting the work and mission of Camp Hope,” Johnson said. “Camp Weaver knows well how to work with specialty populations, including Camp Hope campers, and goes above and beyond to ensure all involved have positive and transformational experiences.”