By Miriam Ankerbrand, Group Events Coordinator
Each year I have the privilege of working with the Angel Tree camping program through Prison Fellowship to bring children of incarcerated men and women to camp for a week of camp. You may think of Angel Tree as a program that occurs at Christmas…you’ve seen the trees at department stores and malls with children’s names written on a paper angel ornament. These children are so much more than a name on a paper angel ornament! They are children longing for stability in their lives, children who long for a parent that can’t physically be with them, children who need hope. A week of summer camp can be life-changing for them!
I’ve been able to share stories about some of our Angel Tree campers in previous blog posts, but there is one story that I will never forget. It happened about three summers ago.
A family with five children, registered for camp through Angel Tree. They had never been to camp before. Their mother was excited for the opportunity as she remembered going to camp as a child. Their father-figure was not excited. He was sure there were strings attached to the free week of camp each child had received.
The younger of the five children came together to the same week of camp and the two oldest went to another week. At the end of the first week, I realized that I was sitting behind the mother and her boyfriend at the closing program. As Aaron shared the opportunity to save your spot for next year’s camp, the boyfriend leaned over and whispered in her ear, “See, I knew it was too good to be true. We’ll have to pay from here on out.”
I couldn’t help but overhear and notice the disgust on his face as he quickly assumed these children were not going to be able to enjoy this but one time. I casually leaned forward and tapped the mother on the shoulder and told her, “Your children can come back every year for a free week of camp through Angel Tree until they graduate from high school. Go ahead and sign them up for next year if you like!”
The smile that crossed her face was huge as she turned in her seat, grabbed me and hugged me! The boyfriend was confused. She quickly filled him in on what I had shared with her. He turned, looked at me with tears in his eyes and whispered, “Thank you.” He couldn’t believe it.
What a blessing to serve in a partnership with Angel Tree, a program that not only impacts children for eternity, but adults as well. We anticipate over 100 children this year through the Angel Tree program! Please join us in praying for these children that their lives will be changed this summer at camp! You may also give financially to our Campership Fund which helps to bring these children to summer camp.