Horseback riding and hiking are adventures worth writing about in a letter home from camp.
But for the 10- to 12-year-old boys who attend Camp Adventure, courtesy of the Camp Diversity Foundation, the biggest adventure of all may simply be leaving home.
“Many of the kids we send have never left the county before,” said Josh Proust, executive director of Boys and Girls Club of Cleveland County, which arranges for some of its boys to attend camp. “They’re apprehensive and fearful, but they all come back saying, ‘This is one of the best things ever.’ ”
Charlotte’s Brookstone School, a private, Christian school that serves mostly low-income families, sends 10 boys every year. The school’s Frieda Logan, who serves as a liaison between parents and the camp, said grades, attendance and behavior help determine who gets to go. “The boys are usually very nervous about driving a few hours away from home,” she said. “But when they come back, they are all social butterflies.”
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“It’s an opportunity for them to see that everything in the world isn’t bad,” she said.
This summer, six kids from the Charlotte area will get to attend Camp Adventure, thanks to The Observer’s Summer Camp Fund. This summer, more than 500 kids will attend 33 camps thanks to donations from Observer readers and the community. This year’s goal is to raise $215,000 to send hundreds more to camp next summer.
Camp Adventure (as the kids know it) takes place during one week each summer at the Christian-based Camp Rockmont for Boys in Black Mountain, just east of Asheville.
Ten years ago, the camp alumni association created a way to share the experience with boys who wouldn’t otherwise be able to attend the pricey camp. They began the Camp Diversity Foundation, which raises funds to send boys from low-income, mostly single-parent families to a mountaintop retreat where leadership development and character building are as essential to the experience as canoeing and rock climbing.
The camp began with 50 boys. This year, 100 boys – 70 percent of them from single-parent families – will drive up the mountain and have their world expanded. And if they can’t provide their own transportation, it will be arranged for them.
Camp staff discovered early on that most of campers’ families couldn’t provide their own linens, so the camp now provides sheets and pillowcases. That’s one luxury it’s easy for most of us to take for granted. Paul Gwaltney, executive director of the Camp Diversity Foundation, said one mom wrote him a thank-you note which mentioned her son’s fondest camp memory: “Reggie got to sleep on sheets.”
The first thing campers will do – besides marvel at the place – is take a swimming test.
Those who don’t pass will be taking swim lessons that week. “Swimming is an activity that takes place every day at camp, and water safety is a big focus for us,” Gwaltney said.
Although the camp offers all the bells and whistles an adolescent boy could imagine (archery, rocketry, a rock-climbing wall, a nature center staffed by a local science teacher), Gwaltney said it’s often the simple things campers report they like best: “We have a zip line, and I used to think that would be everyone’s favorite. But it’s always some experience – like spending time talking to counselors – that’s less obvious.”
Counselors are chosen because of their leadership skills and “Godly character” says Gwaltney, and building campers’ self-confidence is part of their charge.
Despite the array of waterfront toys, including a “Blob” and a “Gully Washer,” there are always a couple of campers whose favorite time in the water is spent building a little dam in a stream, Gwaltney said.
And talent shows and track meets are just two items on the agenda. Making friends, building self-confidence and discovering a world outside their neighborhood is what this adventure is all about.
To give to the Summer Camp Fund
Donate at charlotteobserver.com/summercampfund. Or send donations to The Summer Camp Fund, P.O. Box 37269, Charlotte, NC 28237-7269.
Each Sunday during the drive, the Observer will list contributors to the fund. If you wish to make an anonymous donation, indicate it on the “for” line of your check or on PayPal, note your preference in the special instructions field. To donate in honor or in memory of someone, use the “for” line or special instructions field. Donations are tax-deductible and are processed through Observer Charities, a 501(c)(3).
If you have questions about your donation: 704-358-5520.
Summer Camp Fund Donations
Donations year-to-date: $7,396
In honor of my mother, by Claire Jones $100.00
Kimberly Ellington $100.00
In honor of Kaite & Elizabeth, by Aunt Neel $125.00
In memory of Martha Schweppe, from the Rogers Family $100.00
Linda Schoenfeld $100.00
In honor of Happy Rogers $100.00
David Hurwitz $100.00
In loving memory of B. Marshall Beaty, III, by Mom and Dad $100.00
Louis Eubanks $200.00
Craig Thompson $50.00
Harry Gedney $500.00
Jane Hunter $100.00
Anne Lee $100.00
Catherine Lippman $200.00
In memory of my parents, by Karen Darsey $100.00
Donald Walker $150.00
Bryan Thompson $25.00
Penny Wright $100.00
M & G Stadler $300.00
Lynn Moore $100.00
Nadine Di Iorio $250.00
E. Hardison, Jr. $200.00
Lisa Dodge $100.00
James L. Louden, Jr. $500.00
Elizabeth English $50.00
Samuel Long, III $200.00
Patricia Bower $35.00
James Reichard $500.00
Julie L. Swicegood $125.00
Gayle Larson $150.00
Mary Ellen Weir $25.00