Back to News
GVR Summer Camps Aim to Model Christian Experience »
Seeing a photographer approach them, the two girls, Laila and Lyla, wave and smile. “Do you need some help to get your canoe out of the weeds?” I ask. “Thank you. No need. We got stuck, but we will get out of it,” says Laila. I snapped a few photos, and watched them work hard to pull their canoe into the open water on Minnie Lake, joining half a dozen other canoes. On the shore, a camp assistant watches as the campers sort out their predicament, as expected.
Laila and Lyla are among 93 campers referred to as 8-11 year-old Cub II campers. A random survey of the campers reveals that “this is the best camp I have been to,” most citing horse riding, arts, canoeing and skits as their favorites. Isabella from Highlands and Lindsey from Denver, who refer to themselves as “best friends”, challenge each other whether or not it is the nature center that tops their list.
Other members of the camp staff list similar “most enjoyable camp features,” but add spiritual activities coordinated by Laura Groessel from Brighton as being the most rewarding. With 60 percent of the campers having a limited religious experience, morning and evening worships, an Agape service, and plays based on Bible stories, introduce them to being at a Seventh-day Adventist camp. “The creation story, what’s that?” asks one of the young campers.
The organizers* from the Rocky Mountain Conference youth department explain the importance of giving the young campers a “full experience at our camp,” and modeling who we, as Adventist Christians, are.
Steve Hamilton, RMC youth director, points to the quality of the team, all 74 of them, making a good ratio of service for the kids attending a week-long camping experience. “From me, you’ve heard the saying, “Teamwork makes the dream work.” And we really sense that more this year than ever. This has really been an enjoyable time and it’s because of the people God has placed in our lives and the leadership,” Steve remarked.
The success of the camp is largely due to several weeks of detailed planning and preparation by Kiefer Dooley and his colleagues at the Denver office. “It was when I first got here, probably the two months heading into it, there was more stress than I’ve ever experienced in my life. Then [later] when I got to GVR, and the staff were here, to see the quality of the people we have working at summer camp makes a difference. It was rewarding to see other people benefitting,” Kiefer said. When asked about the challenges, Kiefer does not shy away from explaining what they are, but prefers to list “a lot of coordinating, putting out fires here and there,” as “customer service, you know.”
As for the kids, one staffer had a hard time listing the camp problems. “Oh, yes, there is a bit of home sickness when the kids get here,” she remarked, “but it passes quickly. But one topic is not an issue for Kiefer and the camp stuff in 2017. “The food is better this year,” campers speak freely.
Since horse riding got top marks from several campers, I went to observe what it was that made a difference for many campers. Heidi Beierle from Arkansas is the chief wrangler, coordinating the activities with five other wranglers and 19 horses. Riding is the favorite activity kids enjoy, but a rodeo is the highlight of the week. A visit to the stables gave me quotables for this short report.
Asked whether any of the kids have fallen off their horses, Heidi responds that ”kids have not, but some of the staff have,” she laughs and her team of wranglers join in. As for a surprise, Heidi was quick to offer a bit of astonishment when “two boys asked to scoop the horse poop, though I suggested they brush their horses,” she said. matter what activity topped the list for Hanna, a camp assistant from Maryland, for whom it was a third year at the GVR camp, “it was the best camp ever,” she said. The week of June 18-25 will have an even bigger camp attendance at a Junior Camp with more than 140 kids participating. The camp staff expects to hear again, that “my friends here are awesome,” as Isabella added.
[Rajmund Dabrowski; photos by Ashton Kennedy (2, 4) and Rajmund Dabrowski (1,3)]*The summer camp staff is coordinated by a team of Kiefer Dooley, Shannon Werner, Matt Moreland, and Steve Hamilton, together with Dan Hansen and the year-round Glacier View Ranch team.