On Monday, July 18, more than 85 at-risk children from Central Oklahoma will load into Salvation Army Central Oklahoma buses to head to a week-long summer camp in Tahlequah, and for many of these children, it will be their first time to experience outdoor camping.
The children attending camp do so at no cost, thanks to sponsorships from donors and The Salvation Army. According to Megan Brown-Ellis, program director for The Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club in Oklahoma City, the youth take part in outdoor sports, swimming classes, hiking, leadership activities, arts and crafts, Bible study and ropes courses.
“The Salvation Army Summer Camp gives them character education and encouragement to be their best,” she said. “If they didn’t have The Salvation Army summer programs, most would be roaming the streets or sitting at home watching TV. This is a special experience for them, especially those who have never had the chance to go to summer camp.”
The Salvation Army Arkansas-Oklahoma Division, which The Central Oklahoma Salvation Army is a part of, owns Camp Heart O’ Hills, a residential camp located near Tahlequah. Campers take part in sports, games, paddle boating, challenge courses and more.
Taylor, age 10, of Oklahoma City is among the campers leaving Monday. She is a member of the Boys & Girls Club and had her first camp experience earlier this summer.
“It’s fun,” she said. “I was nervous about camping at first because I never did before, but I loved it. We get to go swimming, do Bible study and we got to paddle boat.”
Other activities include miniature golf, tennis, volleyball, fishing, archery and night programs.
All of the children going to the Heart O’ Hills Camp next week are doing so at no cost to their families. Each year, donors “sponsor” a child or send donations for the camp program, which allows families with financial struggles to send their child to camp.
Camping supplies, provided by The Salvation Army Women’s Auxiliary, are given to children who do not have their own camping gear.
“Camp is so much fun for children, and every child should have the opportunity to experience a true summer camp,” said Brown-Ellis. “The Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club gives them the opportunity to go.”
Donations are needed for the summer camp program. Financial donations can be sent to The Salvation Army Central Oklahoma Area Command, ATTN: Summer Camp, P.O. Box 2095, Oklahoma City, OK 73101.