Last night, I drove to Camp Wilmot for what seemed like the umpteenth time this year. I was picking Grey up from his fourth week of camp, and he’d just returned from a remote Maine island where he’d spent time in a tent right near the beach with a small group of campers and counselors. The pictures looked amazing.
I’m incredibly impressed with what Camp Wilmot does. When I first dropped Grey off as a shy 8 year old (only five years ago? surely more!) I knew nothing of the camp, other than that it was the Presbyterian camp serving our Presbytery – and that summer camp was super important to me. In every year since, I have seen and understood more of what the camp does and offers than I did the year before. That first year, there were only about 10 kids in the second youth week of summer camp. The first week was bigger, with over 40 kids. We sent him to the smaller camp, to break him in.
This year, there were over 60 kids in both two youth camp weeks, as well as Adventure Camp teen weeks on either side. “How” you ask me “Did a middle Protestant Christian camp go from a faithful few to a packed, month-long hive of kids buzzing with energy?” It really feels like an old-school, Hollywood-type miracle. We Presbyterians are not growing. The summer camp I attended as a kid has been shut down, as have many others. But here’s Camp Wilmot, thriving!
I haven’t fully gotten to the bottom of the secret. I think it might have something to do with the energy and dedication of the new generation of directors. They’re former campers who were passionate about the camp, enough to put their time and their youth behind the work of running the thing. I heard a story of them asking Presbytery not to give up on the camp – but to give them enough time to graduate and give back to the camp they loved. That love, I swear, runs through every board and blade of the buildings and grounds. I can feel it now, when I walk there.
But that wasn’t all. They also realized that there was a tremendous need for high quality summer activities for kids who may not have as many options for how to spend their summers. So along with a very generous donor, they set up a campership fund and started working with the guidance counselors in local school districts to identify kids who would especially benefit, and make sure those kids were able to come. It turns out that almost half the kids who come to Camp Wilmot do not regularly go to another church. This is not a camp designed only to appeal to the Sunday School crowd, but to kids from city Boston and rural New Hampshire who have never sat in a pew before.
And I’m watching it play out with my kids. That first year, Grey was alone. By the next year, he’d talked no fewer than four of his buddies into joining him. This year, our town sent 10 kids. I’m pretty sure that Grey would also fight, work, and commit to keep the camp where his heart lives open.
Are you excited by this camp? I am. In a world that seems full of bad news, watching scrappy young people fight for something they love and make it a haven of welcome for a whole new generation of children is exactly what my soul needs. I really want to support it, and I invite you to as well. So how can you support the camp?
They’re hosting their second 5k Funderaiser in September, and I’m going to be running it! (It’s a hilly course – this 5k is no joke!) I invite you to: