Every time I pick up a newspaper there seems to be at least one story about young people and youth camps that begin as soon as school is out and continue until school begins again. I have had the privilege of being involved in such camps in many parts of the world.
I read today about the YMCA Camp in our area, the YWCA will have camps just as the Salvation Army will and most every church and religious group. There are, of course, sports camps of every description, canoe camps, bicycle camps, band camps, music camps, cheerleading camps, science camps, math camps and always The Boys Scouts Camps and Girl Scouts Camps.
The important thing about all these camps is that hundreds of thousands of young people of all ages, from the very young through the teen years, will be in the camps which will staffed by thousands of professional and volunteer men and women. You must have directors, cooks, counselors, special projects and class instructors, lifeguards, nurses and speakers who effectively address needs of the campers.
My fourth grade year was over and I was going to my first summer camp. It was a 4-H Camp and I was 10 years old. For the next 52 years, I was in a youth camp, some summers as many as four of them as a camper until I was 14 when I became a junior leader. At 18, I became an assistant to the camp director. By the time I was 19, I was a full-blown camp counselor, athletic director, shouldering more responsibilities.
Those 4-H Camps and church youth camps did much to shape the direction of my life. I came under the influence of brilliant scholars, teachers and counselors who were valuable mentors for me in every area of life.
Many people reading this column are recalling their childhood and teenage years when they made critical decisions about the direction their lives would take. You learned about educational possibilities. You heard about vocational choices and were given guidance as to how you could achieve those young ambitions and later experience the full realization of your best dreams.
You may be asked to volunteer for a camp for children or teenagers. By doing so, you might recall some of your younger days and the tremendous influence special adults were in your life. You will be asked to give to make it possible for others to have a life-changing camp experience. Give generously so young people can have the privilege of going to camp this summer.
As the years moved on and I was graduated from Anderson University in Anderson, IN, I became more active in summer youth camps. The following summer I was 23 years old and the guest speaker in weeklong youth camps in Florida, North Carolina, Louisiana and Pennsylvania. I was beginning to pass on to others some of what I had received since I was 10 years old.
During my 25 years living in Decatur, Illinois, I directed 35 statewide camps for teenagers and directed my last youth camp in West Virginia when I was 62. These were among the most enjoyable and fulfilling years of my life.
The cooks were always major contributors in the success of the Camp Warren camps at Decatur, IL, with people like head cook Bessie Prince, Connie King, Dorothy Bart, June Pedigo, Essie Williams and others who were among the best.
My special assistant and the one who made it easy for me was my wife, Kitty, and children Elizabeth and Mark who was two in his first youth camp. They grew up in youth camps. Do what you can to help others experience the joys of summer camps.
Bill Ellis is a syndicated columnist, and convention and conference speaker on every continent. He is the writer of more than 2,000 newspaper and magazine columns, articles and contributions to books. He is also a widely known motivational speaker and pulpit guest who utilizes enjoyment of life and just plain fun and laughter while speaking to high school, university and professional sports teams as well as to business and professional groups of all kinds. His keen understanding of human problems makes him a favorite speaker for youth, parent, and senior adult meetings. He is accompanied by Kitty, his wife, favorite singer, editor and publisher.
For information on becoming a subscriber to the Ellis Column for your newspaper or magazine, you may contact him at: BILL ELLIS, P.O.Box 345, Scott Depot, WV 25560 or by calling: 304-757-6089.