Summer is on the way! And for many, that means camp is right around the corner.
Jerry and I, together, have spent about three years of our lives at camp. We each attended camps as kids. Before we met, we were each involved in directing and supporting camping ministries. Even after we married, we continued working in camps designed for families with disabilities.
One of the biggest challenges at every camp in which we served was getting enough volunteers. Perhaps you’ve thought about it but didn’t really know what is involved. Let’s take care of that right now!
What’s a week of Family Camp like?
The description we hear most often is, “This is a slice of Heaven.” Or, “I feel like I’ve come home.” Families feel like they don’t fit in most areas of day-to-day life. They are always the ones who have to adjust. A week of camp designed for them gives them the opportunity to feel like they belong. And they are around others who get their life, and do not have to explain everything.
What will they expect me to do?
Every camp and every ministry that hosts camp runs slightly differently. Typically, most volunteers arrive one day before the campers do. This extra day is for set up, team building, and orientation.
Volunteers serve in many roles. Some of these include greeting families upon arrival, buddying with a person with a disability to attend programming, assisting in the running of age-group programs and recreation, helping with meal service, and crafts.
At most camps, families provide for the personal care needs of their loved one with a disability. They may ask you to help feed your camper. If this is an area of concern for you, ask about this in advance.
Do I share a room with the family I help?
No. Each family has their own room. Volunteers stay with other volunteers.
Note that some camps are designed just for the person with a disability, not the whole family. Often, these camps have volunteers and campers share housing.
Do I need any experience?
For most roles, no experience is needed. A willing heart is the most important. You’ll get the training you need the day before camp begins. And there are always people from the leadership team around to lend a hand, if you just ask.
Most camps have minimum age standards. Most do not have an upper age limit. We served many years with several volunteers well into their eighties. Check with the specific camp you are considering.
Most of the ones I look at say I have to pay to volunteer. Why?
Families pay to come to camp. It is difficult for many of them to afford this. When volunteers pay their own way, it does not add a burden to the family fees. But don’t let money stop you. Consider this short-term missions. If you ask friends and family to help you pay your way, you’ll likely gain them as prayer partners too!
Can I volunteer for a day or two, or do I need to stay for the entire week?
This answer varies from camp to camp. Some have opportunities for day volunteers. The greatest need is for weeklong volunteers. This allows for consistency for the camper and the volunteer.
Note: The term volunteers varies from camp to camp. Other names may be Short Term Missionary (STM), Crew, Buddy, Helper.
How can I find a camp near me?
The following list is not exhaustive. It is a connection to camps hosted by many of our ministry partners or friends. If you learn about others, please share them with us. The first two camps listed are where Jerry and I will serve this summer.
Breakaway Camp run by Lift Disability Network Leesburg FL June 26-30
Camp Celebrate run by Luke 14 Ministries Newport TN July 17-21
Great Getaway run by Hurdling Handicaps Grass Lake MI June 13-17
Camp Levi run by Jacksonville Pres Church Jacksonville OR August 13-18
Family Retreats run by Joni and Friends at various locations and dates
Several camps have already closed their registration for families because they do not have enough volunteers. Please consider giving a week of your time and energy. This may allow a family currently on the waiting list to attend.
Please share this blog widely; your help is needed.