With the school year now concluded, millions of children throughout the U.S. are looking forward to attending summer camps where they will take part in fun and educational activities, go on field trips to places they have never been, and for many, make new friends and memories that will last their entire lifetimes.
But such is not the case in distressed Appalachian communities such as McDowell County, West Virginia and Lee County, Kentucky, where the vast majority of children will be spending the next several weeks bored, isolated – and oftentimes hungry and alone at home – with essentially nothing to do and nothing to look forward two during their summer “vacation.”
However, in McDowell and Lee counties, dozens of children will be attending day camps this summer operated by our grassroots partners Big Creek People in Action (BCPIA) and Cumberland Mountain Outreach (CMO), respectively, thanks to the supporters of Americans Helping Americans®.
Last year, BCPIA co-executive director Dyanne Spriggs reported nearly two dozen children ages 5 to 13 had a summer camp experience of a lifetime participating in arts and crafts activities including making “volcanos,” constructing and painting bird houses, making and decorating kites, tie-dying T-shirts and socks, and more, with the highlight of the summer camp being an overnight trip to a cabin in the Smoky Mountains.
For this year, Dyanne told us that “We have ordered a lot of crafts and have small field trips planned for them for the two-weeks of camp.”
And, of course, the highlight will be another “big trip,” likely for many, if not most, their first vacation travel experience.
“We have rented a really nice cabin in the Smoky Mountains and scheduled for them to attend a ‘pirate’ dinner show and other activities,” she told us.
CMO’s day camp season begins on June 13 when former campers start their training to “give back” through its “Teens in Leadership” (TIL) program where they will serve as camp counselors and mentors for the young campers.
Throughout the rest of June and July, CMO director Cynthia Evanoff told us they have about three dozen kids signed up “for a week of doing arts and crafts, going on hikes, swimming at a local pool, bowling – and even ziplining, likely a new and exciting experience for all.
On the Fourth of July, the TIL participants will be developing a menu and cooking for 25 volunteers from a church group coming to the county to help in home rehabilitation projects.
Also planned for July are Bible school with church groups, and another church group will be setting up “bouncy houses” at Americans Helping Americans® Pine Crest Camp there.
As for Dyanne, who has been organizing summer day camps for kids with support from Americans Helping Americans® for the past several years, she knows all the children “are looking forward to a fantastic time this summer.
“The funding from Americans Helping Americans® provides kids who have never been on a vacation to go and enjoy themselves with their friends and make new ones.”
And on behalf of all the campers and their parents and guardians for making this all possible, Dyanne says, “We really appreciate it.”