What did bread making, storybook reading, and Fish School cheers have in common? They were all a part of an experience at Day Camp! Over the months of June and July, we hosted over 100 kids for multiple weeks of camp that included everything from prayer journaling to feeding goats.
This summer we saw a lot of smiles. A lot. “It was really unique to watch relationships and leadership qualities emerge from kids who started the week as strangers to their own community,” said Allison Waller, AIM Day Camp Manager.
Author, Josh Wilkey writes, “So many people in Appalachia have broken minds and broken bodies and broken hearts, and they do nothing more than survive because that’s all they can do.” Often we paint a picture of Appalachia as a sad one. Images emerge of a place where children are shirtless and shoeless, eating ketchup packets for lunch. While that is sometimes the case, we are also alive and thriving!
Our data shows some exciting trends. For example Day Camp children experience an increase in self-esteem after just one week at camp. Morgan Atkisson, YSM Day Camp Manager, shares, “I saw first hand how a week of Day Camp truly changed the kids that came to the program. Some of the kids who had been very shy on Monday were the same ones who were leading songs and asking to pray at the end of the week.”
Day Camp children also feel more connected to their community. One field trip led them to the University of the South’s Summer Music Festival, which was a favorite trip of the summer. “We absolutely LOVED having them here. We haven’t had the opportunity to do programming like this until this year and it is something we really want to do,” said Hilary Ward, Assistant Director, Sewanee Summer Music Festival.
The real evidence showed up on Friday each week. Family members were invited to an event to celebrate their child’s experience. Over and over again, parents raved about the ways Mountain T.O.P. was able to show young people God’s love through a variety of activities. At camp social connectedness was most important. Children did not have to worry about their status or level. They just knew they were loved.
And that made all the difference.