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Food For Thought

Below is a guest post from George and Sandy Uhl. The Uhl’s have been involved in camping for decades, working on site staff at camp, counseling and serving on countless boards, work groups and task forces. Most recently they were asked to serve on the Operations Task Force that was convened to get Templed Hills up and running again. After many meetings, newly discovered information and lots of conversations, they are convinced that the Ohio Conference Board of Directors made the wrong decision in choosing which campsite to keep and which one to sell.

NEWS FROM THE HILLS – OUR OHIO CONFERENCE CAMPS
Over the years, hundreds of children and adults from our congregation have enjoyed the natural and spiritual resources of our Ohio Conference Camps: Templed Hills and Pilgrim Hills. Recently, the Board of Directors of the Ohio Conference has determined that it is no longer feasible to maintain two camps and voted to sell one of the camps: Pilgrim Hills. The Ohio Conference Board of Directors will be meeting on August 25 to take a second look at the decision to sell Pilgrim Hills. George & I are members of the Operations Task Force that has met a number of times to look at plans for renovating the remaining camp, Templed Hills (TH). The closer we looked at TH, the more disturbed we were to see the deterioration of the closed buildings (Templed Hills has been on “sabbatical” – closed for 4 years). We couldn’t help but wonder if the decision to keep TH and sell Pilgrim Hills (PH) was made without full information. After doing a little research and uncovering facts that prove the reasons for selling PH are not valid, several of the Operations Task Force members (including George & I) have vigorously advocated for a change of plans. The contrast between the two camps in terms of accessible buildings, athletic fields, kitchen facilities, and natural resources is extreme. I have attached a report that I hope you will read carefully. I encourage you to ask questions, share your concerns and let your association minister, association representatives, conference minister (John Gant, jmg@ocucc.org), and conference moderator (Mindy Quellhorst, revmql@gmail.com), know your views. At the bottom of this post you will find an email list for all of the Board of Directors.

The Board of Directors is meeting NEXT FRIDAY, August 25th at Dublin U.C.C. beginning at 10AM. We encourage you to email or call your representatives and encourage them to consider reversing their decision.

My motivation to speak out on this issue is based solely on the desire to have a strong Outdoor Ministries program for our youth and adults. The unwise use of limited resources is a moral issue. I fear that there will not be enough money to renovate TH to the standard that will attract campers and outside groups and that in a few short years we will be closing TH as well. Keeping the most viable camp (PH) is what makes sense to me. I hope you agree and I would appreciate your support. Thank you!

In February 2017 the Ohio Conference Board of Directors voted to sell Pilgrim Hills and keep Templed Hills. The reasons for selling Pilgrim Hills were stated as follows:

-The need for an adult retreat center with the aging of our congregations.

-Two major maintenance issues at Pilgrim – the sewage system and the pool, which would need to be addressed immediately and could have price tags upwards of $700,000.

-Templed Hills is easier to access from a major highway and makes it more marketable for new groups.

-The sale of Pilgrim Hills would generate significantly more money.

In April 2017, several of us were asked to become members of the Operations Work Task Force. This group was to determine priorities for renovations and upgrades at Templed Hills (TH). After working onsite at TH and seeing first hand the sad deterioration that has occurred over the last 4 years that this camp has been “on sabbatical”, a significant portion of members of the Operations Work Task Force have had second thoughts about the advisability of spending enormous amounts of money and volunteer energy to bring TH up to a reasonable healthy standard that already exists at Pilgrim Hills (PH). Through research, we have provided some new information that was not available in February, listed the assets of PH compared to TH and asked the Board of Directors to reconsider their decision based on the facts as they now exist. The following is a summary of what we now know. I ask for your support in encouraging a change of plan for the sale of PH. I encourage you to share this information with your congregations and to generate a groundswell of support that will assure the Board of Directors that changing a decision when faced with irrefutable evidence is a prudent action.

To begin with, some serious mold issues have been identified at TH. Buildings that are unheated with water seepage are prime candidates for mold. One of the mold inspectors that visited TH commented that the only buildings not contaminated with mold are the summer Quonset hut-type cabins that have great ventilation since they only have screens (no windows). Although there are currently volunteer groups trying to affect mold abatement, these volunteers have not been trained in dealing with mold and they run the risk of spreading the mold spores instead of containing and eliminating them. If the damp conditions are not eliminated and the buildings are not waterproofed, mold will continue to be a problem. Some people are not aware of the severity of illnesses that can be traced to exposure to mold. It is a fact that our Conference Leadership was aware of mold problems at TH before they voted to sell PH in February.

None of the buildings at TH are handicap accessible. There are steep hills, stairs and narrow doorways that impede persons with mobility issues from fully using the camp. Adding bathrooms and changing doorways is not a cheap fix. PH already has accessible restrooms in the lodge and in several cabins. At PH there is a lighted boardwalk to more than half of the camp and drivable roads to buildings that are not serviced by the boardwalk.

None of the buildings at TH have been heated for at least 4 years. We expect to find many problems with the boilers and furnaces in the main buildings. TH is run on propane, fuel oil and electricity. PH uses electricity and natural gas, which is significantly cheaper. At PH, oil wells have been identified on the property. In the past, 2 oil wells were active and the natural gas was just vented off. Now that natural gas is more commonly used, those wells and the others that have been identified but not drilled could provide a source of revenue in addition to providing natural gas for camp use. Looking at an Ohio Department of Natural Resources map reveals that all of the properties surrounding PH also have oil wells, some producing oil and/or gas and some identified but not yet drilled. Speaking of natural resources, the PH camp manager has a proposal for a modest harvest of trees that would generate close to $100,000.

The two major maintenance issues that were identified at PH and used as a reason to sell this property are now in fact, really not problems at all. The pool has leaked for years. It was necessary to have a hose refilling the pool all summer, which meant that the water was always uncomfortably cold. It was thought to need to be replaced at a cost of $300,000! Last year, a leak specialist identified the location of the leak and it was fixed. The cost of chemicals was cut in half and the water temperature has been very nice. In contrast, the once beautiful pool at TH now leaks in unknown locations and the pump has broken down – another expensive fix. The other major maintenance issue at PH was thought to be the sewage treatment system. Under the impression that we could not add any additional beds due to the capacity of the sewage treatment system at PH, it was surmised that the system would need to be replaced or upgraded at a cost of potentially $400,000! Consulting with the Ohio EPA, it was discovered that PH is actually rated for 270 beds – 70 more than we have currently have. This means we could expand by adding another building with as many as 70 more beds. In addition the EPA was helpful in identifying potential sources for grant money that could help defray costs that we might incur making some relatively minor repairs to the system at PH.

The Operations Work Task Force has looked at architectural drawings for upgrades to Heritage Hall at TH. The drawings include adding accessible bathrooms on both floors, a deck overlooking the field below and interior modifications that would make the building more attractive and functional. The parking area would be modified after waterproofing and fixing leaks. All of these improvements will cost upwards of $200,000. At Skipper Lodge we will need to add first floor restrooms, major improvements to the kitchen, lower level bedrooms and bathrooms. The heating, electrical and lighting systems will need to be upgraded to meet current standards. It is easy to imagine that the cost of these actions will also exceed $200,000. Similar expenditures will be necessary at Memorial Lodge. In contrast, PH is already a fully functioning camp that does not need these huge expenditures. Selling PH because we might be able to do so for more money doesn’t make sense if we have to spend so much to bring TH up to an acceptable level.

 

The comparison between the camps continues:

PH has several flat maintained fields for soccer, baseball, band camp, etc., a basketball court and gaga ball pit. It also has a 3-acre lake for paddleboats, canoes and kayaks. These are the kind of amenities that every camp needs to have. Athletic facilities are very limited at TH. There is one flat maintained field. The pond is very small and doesn’t appear to hold water very efficiently anymore. It is not suitable for any kind of boating.

To address the expressed desire for a building designed for adult retreats and/or grandparent-grandchild camps, a number of buildings have been identified at PH that could be modified to accommodate these types of groups. There is also plenty of space to construct a new building that could be designed for adults. The adult retreat building at TH is in sad condition: mold, dampness, inaccessible bathrooms, and finishes that have been affected by mold including the carpeting, bathroom vanities and some of the walls.

In conclusion, we believe it is immoral to have volunteers not trained in mold abatement and perhaps not even properly protected themselves, cleaning buildings at TH. We believe that it is poor stewardship of our resources to spend exorbitant amounts of money on a camp (TH) that is so sorely lacking in all that is necessary when we already have a camp (PH) that has the amenities that are only pipe dreams at TH. We urge the Board of Directors of the Ohio Conference to meet ASAP and make the logical decision to rescind the former decision to sell PH and instead, sell TH.

Respectfully, George & Sandy Uhl

 

Ohio Conference Board of Directors Email Roster:

Rev. Carl Robinson (SONKA Designated Association Minister) crobinson@sonkaucc.org

Mr. Tom Brownfield (CSEOA) Tbrownfield1943@gmail.com

Rev. Sam Buehrer (Treasurer) sam@sylvaniaucc.org

Rev. Daniel Busch (NWOA Association Minister) dlbusch@nwoa.org

Rev. Michael Castle (SONKA) mike@harmonycreekchurch.org

Rev. Kenneth Daniel (NWOA) kdaniel@uchinc.org

Rev. Becky Erb Strang (NWOA) berbstrang@stpaulnb.org

Rev. Kevan Franklin (EOA) dockSF@aol.com

Rev. John Gantt (Interim Conference Minister) jmg@ocucc.org

Ms. Cathy Green (WRA) (Vice-Moderator) green.cjm@gmail.com

Pastor Colin Jones (WRA) Cojo68@gmail.com

Jay McMillen (SONKA) jmcmillen@shiloh.org

Mr. Jim Meyer (WRA) jimmeyer33@gmail.com

Rev. Mindy Quellhorst (Moderator) RevMQL@gmail.com

Mr. Jeff Roeger (EOA) jfroeger@sbcglobal.net

Rev. Rita Root (EOA/WRA Associations Minister) rita@eoawraucc.org

Mr. Tim Smith (Past Moderator) TimLSmith@aol.com

Rev. Bob Tussing (Secretary) rctuss@sbcglobal.net

Dr. Cynthia Tyson (CSE) cynthiatyson484@gmail.com

Rev. Morgan Wickizer (DOC) saccpastor@midohio.twcbc.com

These two are new members of the Board whose terms start after the Annual Gathering. At least one of them will be at the meeting on August 25.

Ms. Pam Linderson (SONKA) (2019) pamlinderson@gmail.com

Rev. Kurt Wieser (EOA) (2019) chaplainkw@aol.com

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Documentary Goal

$12,000
21% Funded

Pilgrim Hills Documentary


That drive into camp as you come through the pines. The memories flood back, you roll down your windows, you smile, you exhale….you are here. For the past 60 years that turn onto to the paved road and the drive through those pines has served as a welcome to a modest 375 acres of ground at the corner of Coshocton and Holmes Counties. For so many this place has become sacred and holy ground. Pilgrim Hills will always hold a special place in the hearts of thousands.

I am writing to you, as individuals in the Ohio Conference of the United Church of Christ who have faithfully supported our summer camping ministry in the Ohio Conference.

Earlier this winter the Ohio Conference Board of Directors made the difficult decision to sell Pilgrim Hills and move all of our summer camping programs and retreats to Templed Hills beginning in 2018.

For over 60 years Pilgrim Hills has been sacred ground for thousands of people who have walked those trails, had an encounter with God, found their best friend in the entire galaxy, fell madly in love, discovered a calling into ministry, laughed until they cried, poured endless amounts of sweat equity into that place, survived thousands of mosquito bites and sang songs until they had no voice. Quite possibly the most important ministry Pilgrim Hills accomplished by simply being…camp.

This summer a team of filmmakers from Trinity U.C.C. in Canton are set to tell the story of our final summer at Pilgrim Hills, to capture the history of this place and embark on the daunting task of sharing just exactly what this place means to so many.

The Ohio Conference appreciates and joins with Affirm Camp in the preparation of a documentary video to celebrate the 60 years that Pilgrim Hills has played a major role in forming faithful relationships with God, creation and others. In order to make this project a reality we need to raise $12,000. We believe that this is an investment that all of us will be able to cherish for years to come.

Would you consider being a part of this project? Help us capture the essence of Pilgrim Hills through it's history, it's beauty, the laughter, the singing and the voices of so many who have shaped and been shaped by this place. You can make donation to this project in a number of ways.

  1. CLICK HERE to donate at the Ohio UCC donation page.
  2. Mail a check payable to Ohio Conference U.C.C. with “PH Documentary” noted in the memo line of the check. The mailing addres is 6161 Busch Blvd. Suite #100 Columbus, OH 43229.

THE FILMMAKERS

BRANDON YOUNG - Director, Editor

BRANDON YOUNG, videographer and percussionist, is currently the Videographer and Editor at Trintiy United Church of Christ where he films, produces, edits, and directs videos at different lengths. Brandon also works for TeleProductions at Kent State University. Brandon is currently a student at Kent State University studying Digital Media Production with a concentration in Digital Film with a double minor in Music Performance with a concentration in Percussion and Writing with a concentration in Scriptwriting, Advertising Writing, and Playwriting. As a videographer, Brandon has won numerous awards for his work. He was an Official Selection for the All American High School Film Festival, White House Student Film Festival, Scholastic Art and Writing Competition, All-State OSBA Conference, and Canton Film Festival. Brandon has done many projects as well. Some of these included a music video for Nashville Recording Artist Ricky Lee, a fourteen episode Web-Series called Swamp Talk, a 40-minute documentary for the Kent State School of Music, a 30-minute documentary for Taggarts Ice Cream, and a 45-minute documentary for the Canton Palace Theatre. His films has been shown in New York City, Washington D.C., Columbus, Nashville, and Canton. He has done projects for the Canton Palace Theatre, Canton Civic Center, Kent State University, Plain Local Community Center for the Performing Arts, MAPS Air Museum, Trinity United Church of Christ, GlenOak High School, Ohio School Board Association, GASP, and Taggarts Ice Cream. He has studied video under the direction of Josh Branch, Scott Hallgren, and David Smeltzer.



Sample Work

Canton Palace Theatre Documentary

  • Director, Gaffer, Editor

Singing Verse Documentary

  • Director, Assistant Camera, Editor

CPT Membership Video

  • Director, Camera, Editor

"The Great Summer Serve" Highlight Reel

  • Director, Camera, Editor

Christmas Eve at Trinity UCC

  • Director, Gaffer, Editor

Summer at Trinity UCC

  • Director, Camera, Editor

ADAM TOLLEY - Assistant Camera, Production Sound Mixer, Post Sound Supervisor

ADAM TOLLEY is a locally known filmmaker who has 5 years of experience in the industry creating visually pleasing documentaries, commercials, Weddings, and testimonials. Some of his most inspiring work was done with the Gh4 camera, but he has experience on Canon DSLRs and Panasonic camcorders.

Adam started his career in film during his sophomore year of high school, where he worked under a widely known Videographer, Josh Branch, filming musicals, choir concerts, and a graduation ceremony. During high school, Adam created a video that took third place for a competition promoting public schooling. He also worked on a video that was widely used in the school promoting a S.T.E.M. program. Adam had his first on-set experience with a team from his high school at Mercy Medical where he was grip and teleprompter. Outside of the high school, Adam gained experience working with his long time friend creating videos for a church. Together, they created over fifteen testimonial videos that were seen by the hundreds of people attending the church. After graduating high school, Adam attended film school. He made a promotional video for North-Eastern Ohio Medical, which gained praise all throughout the school. Adam helped his long time friend create a documentary for a music building at his school that has been seen over a thousand times all throughout campus. Adam has worked with a Videographer at Cutler Real Estate covering events. Adam filmed a multitude of weddings in which he was cameraman, director, and editor for.

Sample Work

Canton Palace Theatre Documentary

  • First Assistant Camera

Singing Verse Documentary

  • Director of Photography

Giving Day (NEOMED)

  • Director, Camera, Editor

Austin and Kristyn Baby Gender Reveal

  • Director, Camera, Editor

Hollister Video

  • Co-Director, Camera, Editor

Admirer

  • Camera, Writer, Editor

MICHAEL OYLER - Director of Photography, Best Boy, Color Correction

MICHAEL OYLER is a local videographer, editor, and gaffer who has been working on short films, corporate projects, and various other client work such as weddings and commercials for the past 4 years using a variety of gear such as the Canon C300, Panasonic GH4, Sony FS100, URSA Mini, and various other DSLR's and Camcorders.

Michael began his career as a junior at GlenOak High School in the video production career technical program. Michael continued his education in the film industry through Kent State University. Throughout his educational career, Michael has studied under Josh Branch, Scott Hallgren, and David Smeltzer. In Michael's field experience he has worked with and shadowed several well-known people in the industry such as Michael Cameneti, James Waters, Tyler Clark, Michael Tell, Jordan Pellegrini, Andrew Santin, and Luke Deju. Michael currently works for Cutler Real Estate as the first Corporate Videographer of the company who has created and is developing it's first video department. Michael is also on the board of the Canton Film Fest with James Waters and Luke Deju, and is a cameraman for TeleProductions at Kent State where he films all of the sporting events. Michael continues to work on freelance client work, weddings, and documentaries, and does so with a strong dependable, trustworthy, and focused work ethic that pleases all of his clients from Pre to Post-Production.

Sample Work

Canton Palace Theatre Documentary

  • Director of Photography, Gaffer, Color Correction

CPT Membership Video

  • Director of Photography, Gaffer

Cutler Connect: Emily Rompage

  • Director, Camera, Gaffer, Editor

Hollister Video

  • Co-Director, Camera, Editor

Cutler Kent Office Grand Opening

  • Director, Camera, Editor

Myrtle Beach Vacation

  • Co-Director, Camera, Editor

We believe firmly that the best day of outdoor ministries and summer camps are yet to come. We believe that as we find ourselves more and more inundated with screens, wifi and technology, that the need for a space and a place to unplug and unwind has never been more relevant than today. Celebrating Pilgrim Hills and the ministry it provided for the past 60 years through this film is an important part of preserving this legacy.

Our hope is that you will join us in supporting this project and make a contribution today to support this legacy of this beloved place.

GATHERING HISTORY

We need everyone's help gathering the history of Pilgrim Hills. We are looking for contact information for old camp directors, site staff, parents and others who were involved in camp in it's early years. We are looking for stories from those who first dreamed up the idea of Pilgrim Hills and helped construct the building and plant the pine trees. We are looking for old photos, old videos and old camp memorabilia to help capture this history completely. If you have anything that you think would be relevant please contact Nate Taylor at nate@avonlakeucc.org

Kaleidoscope Project


I am writing to you with an update on the progress of the Affirm Camp consulting project with Kaleidoscope Inc. Earlier this year we approached the WRA/EOA Association Councils with a request to support our efforts to hire Kaleidoscope Inc. under the leadership of their Executive Director Jody Oates, to develop a business plan and feasibility study for continuing an outdoor ministries program at Pilgrim Hills. We were able to secure funding for this project from several of our local congregations and a number of private donors in less than a month. You graciously agreed to allow us to move forward with this project with an understanding that no matter the outcome, there was no commitment from the Associations to a path forward regarding our camps or the pursuit of obtaining the Pilgrim Hills property.



Over the course of the past several months a group of lay leaders and ministers met several times with Jody to discuss, dream and wrestle with the questions surrounding this type of project. In late September our team met with Jody to receive a draft of his final report. In his report, Jody has identified a plan forward for operating an outdoor ministries program at Pilgrim Hills and affirms that camp is still relevant and still sustainable in Ohio.



In the meantime, the Ohio Conference decided recently to maintain ownership of both Templed Hills and Pilgrim Hills, instead of selling one of the sites. They are planning to sell off large parcels of both properties subsequently. This decision effectively ends the possibility of our Associations pursuing the possible acquisition of Pilgrim Hills.



After discussing these changes at our last Affirm Camp meeting, we decided that the best use of this report from Kaleidoscope would be to provide it to the Ohio Conference Board of Directors, as a resource for them to use in their long range planning for the future our Outdoor Ministries program in the Ohio Conference. Our hope is that the Conference leadership will find this report useful and helpful and will ultimately put it to work. Our group will be attending the Board of Directors Meeting on December 9th to give them a full report on the Kaleidoscope project.



I would like to extend my appreciation and gratitude on behalf of all of us with Affirm Camp to each of you for your support of this project. Our hope is that collectively we can all find a way to give our Outdoor Ministries a sustainable future with a commitment of time and resources they so undoubtedly deserve.



If you have any questions regarding Affirm Camp or the Kaleidoscope Project, I would be happy to answer them at any time. Happy Camping.

Supporters

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Our current supporters

Do More


SIGN-UP FOR CAMP

One of the best things you can do to help our camps is... go to camp. Use the sites. Send your kids and grandkids to summer camp. Book retreats, attend Fall Youth Event and Lantern Fellowship and Workdays. For all the information on this summer's camping program, please visit www.journeythehills.org. Remember March 31st is the earlybird deadline to lock-in to the lowest rate for camp, but you can sign-up all the way until June or until a camp fills up.



PASS THIS ON

Please forward our website to as many of your friends in the U.C.C. That care about these camps and our Outdoor Ministries program. Help us to gather as much support for this fundraising effort as possible.

You can use the following images and materials to help spread the word about this project.

Download Materials

Contact


For more information about this petition or how you can help, here's all of my contact information.

info@affirmcamp.org

Nate Taylor

  • Director of Youth Ministries - Avon Lake U.C.C.
  • Nate@avonlakeucc.org
  • 440.503.2549 cell
  • 440.933.3241 church

Stories


Tell Your Story

I can still remember the first time we brought my brother to camp. It smelled weird. I tried so hard to only take breaths through my mouth so I wouldn't have to smell the dingy, dirty, damp air. I thought, we will be out of here in no time and maybe I can play sick next week so I don’t have to pick him up. When next week came, my parents forced me to go with them so I resentfully got in the car. When we arrived to Pilgrim Hills, there was dust in the air and not to my surprise, it still smelled dingy, dirty, and damp just like the week before. The worst part was that Eli smelled just like the air and I had to ride all the way home sitting next to him. He had enough stories for the entire car ride home – two and a half hours worth of good stories. I was so confused… how could he love a place that smelled so bad? I didn’t know the answer at that time, but what I did know was that I couldn’t wait to get home so he could take a shower and so my mom could wash all of his clothes… twice! After everything was back to smelling like our fresh detergent, I didn’t think much about camp until a few months later. It was time for camp registration, and now that I was old enough, my parents said I was going. I immediately remembered the smell. There was no way I was going to that place for a whole week; however, when camp time rolled around, I packed my things like I was told and prepared for the smelly week ahead.

Once I arrived, I was placed in a “family” whom I would spend my whole week with. I was unsure at first if I would make friends and most importantly if I’d like the food. As it turned out, one of the first things we did that Sunday was eat dinner. That put both of my concerns to rest. The dinner was good and everyone at my table was so sweet. They wanted to know all about me and they seemed to genuinely care. As the week progressed, I kept meeting new people and every single person was just as nice as the last. We played sports together, ate together, prayed together, sang together, and became instant best friends with each other. I was really starting to understand how Eli had loved it so much the year before and started to forget about the dirty, dingy, damp smell. I loved everything we did and I loved the way I was having fun learning about God. When the week was over, I found myself so sad and ready to come back the next year. I felt as though I had never been stronger in my faith and I couldn’t wait to tell my Sunday School friends all about my awesome week.

After 51 long weeks, it was finally time for my second year of Sports Camp. I was so excited to get back and see all of my friends from the year before. This year was just as exceptional as the last was. I picked right back up where I had left off with my friends, and made so many more. I made huge strides in my faith and strengthened my relationship with my brother and cousins, who also attend Sports Camp. It became clear to me that year that I was a church camp addict and that I would be returning every year forever more.

A few months after camp one year, when I was twelve years old, I was diagnosed with an arachnoid cyst. I was told that I was missing my cerebellum and that this cyst had grown in its place. After meeting with the neurosurgeon, it was decided that I needed brain surgery. Later that month, I went into the big, scary hospital for a big, scary surgery. When they took me back into the operating room, they wanted me to feel comfortable. They played my favorite music and when they gave me the laughing gas, they told me to close my eyes and think of a place I love. I did as they said. They put the mask on my face and I closed my eyes. I pictured camp. I pictured myself standing on the deck looking out at the cross. I pictured myself running around camp with all of my best friends. I took in a deep breath and I smelled the dingy, dirty, damp air of Pilgrim Hills. I took strength, not only in that moment, but also in so many moments since then, in the love and faith embedded at camp.

I still think that camp can smell dingy, dirty, and damp; however, since going to camp for so many years, I find comfort in that smell and it brings memories and joy. I have changed so much because of my years as a camper and have developed a strong faith. So yeah, I’m still Sydney, but I’m a better version of her than I was back then.

Join me in affirming camp,
Syd

To those who make the tough decisions,

My name is Dava Donaldson and I am a young adult who is going to one day change the world. Why do I know this? Because the Ohio Conference of the United Church of Christ's Outdoor Ministries changed my world a number of years ago and continues to each year I return to camp.

As a young, incredibly shy fifth grader, I attended Sports Camp for the first time. There, I met lifelong best friends and grew closer to Christ. Now at 21 years old, with eight years of campership and one year of counselling under my belt, I feel equipped to take on the world in a Christ-centered way.

I encourage you and your fellow colleagues who have the job of making very difficult decisions for our conference to look at all options before eliminating this incredibly fruitful mission. Outdoor Ministries give young children and young adults an opportunity to grow as an individual in ways I cannot put into words. I am confident that if you have attended, counseled, directed, or organized any of the outdoor ministry camps, you would know this growth that I know. It's the growth of young people who are going through every stage of development. It's the growth that safely encourages young people to step out of their box and everything they know to be true. It's the growth that breeds confidence and fosters interpersonal relationships. It's the growth that will help guide the young people of our society, who in not too many years from now, will be leading our society. Don't you want them to be Christ-centered, wise, adaptable, and confident leaders?

By maintaining at least one of our campsites, you are doing just that. You are building our society's future one young person at a time. Don't believe me? Because of what I learned at camp, the people I met, and the Good News I was exposed to, I am now working to provide clean water to a Christian village in East Africa and forming a non-profit around it. This personal mission I have to change the world by providing clean water, it would not have been a thought in mind if it weren't for the values, the confidence in my skills, and the unwavering belief that Christ supports me in my endeavors and calls me to be an informed global citizen that helps those in need. Each of these being instilled and developed through my experiences at Sports Camp.

I know this is quite lengthy and by no means expresses my gratitude to the extent that I feel in my heart. All I know is that having been a camper through Outdoor Ministries for 2/3 of my life at this point, and now seeing the children of my church that I once cared for in the nursery now attend camp, is one of the single most amazing feelings of my spiritual life. That is because I know they are being exposed to some of the best people, best little pieces of nature, and the best life lessons and Gospel message. We as campers and counselors get a little taste of Heaven each and every year because the love of Christ spread like wild fire throughout Outdoor Ministries.

The people I have met and the love that I have felt from camp has quite literally saved my life in a number of ways, some more real than others. I hope that those of you tasked with the very tough decision-making consider my experiences, along with the experiences of hundreds more like me, when making your final decisions concerning our camps.

To me, camp is the greatest part of my summer. To be able to meet new people with similar interests and religions is a great way to come together as one. Church camp every year has made me realize that someday I want to work in the church/ministry field. I have gone to church camp for 8 years now and I will continue to go as long as I can to be a counselor and hopefully someday, a director. To take church camp out of my (and many others) childhoods is really sad and it is hard for me to even think about. Roasting marshmallows, singing praises, swimming, hiking, praying, meeting new friends, and learning more about the Lord are just some of the many enjoyable things at church camp. If there were no church camp it would be very sad and unfortunate. I am fortunate that I can go on vacation with my family but to some children, church camp is their only get away. The staff at camp is incredible! The food is delicious! The care given to us is amazing. The worship is so meaningful. But most of all camp is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me and by siblings. A life without camp is one without pure joy.

From, Megan Vesely (8 year camper, 14 years old)- Paradise UCC

Every year, the best part of my summer is going to church camp! I have met most of my friends at church camp! My favorite part about going to church camp is when we are out late at night celebrating, having late vespers, having cook-outs, or going on hikes. Church camp is a great way to stay active, have fun, and learn so much about the Bible, God, and Jesus! This year will be my 5th year going to Church Camp. I've been to Choir Camp 2 years and this will be my 3rd year going to choir camp. I have been to Creator's Classroom for 2 years also. I really enjoy going to Choir Camp because of the singing, but mostly because my closest friends go to Choir camp. I still keep in touch with my friends from camp. We text each other all the time about camp and other things! I look forward to going to Church Camp every summer! My favorite part about going to Creator's Classroom is all of the crafts we do. We also learn a lot of songs and games. I teach my friends from church all of the songs and games and we sing and play them all of the time. Church camp has made me feel more brave and outgoing. Church camp is my favorite part about my whole summer! Without church camp I wouldn't have the opportunities to meet new people, have fun, and grow my faith. I love Church Camp.

From, Amanda Vesely, age 12- Paradise United Church of Christ

#affirmcamp I LOVE Camp!!!

Church camp is probably one of the best parts of my summer. I enjoy playing all of the games and learning even more about GOD! The food there is really good. The friends I meet are the best. I always look forward to meeting new friends and having fun with the ones I have met in the past. My favorite part of camp is playing gagaball!!! I also enjoy singing songs about God and Jesus. I think the Bible stories we learn there are really interesting. I always go to Sports camp. I play a lot of sports and I remember how to be a good Christian athlete from the lessons I learn at camp! I love church camp and I would be somewhat bored without it!
Sincerely,

Kyle Vesely from Paradise UCC

Like many of the stories already told, I experienced camp for the first time as a child. When I was in fifth grade, my parents signed our family up for Labor Day family camp. I remember my mom making all of the preparations to leave for the weekend and wondering what it would be like. We spent the weekend at Templed Hills participating in skits, keeping our elbows off the dinner table (or consequently having to sing a rhyming tune while clapping and running around the table), fishing, doing skits, meeting new people, and just being together as a family. It was my first experience at our UCC camps, and I was excited to return.

Another year went by, and the next summer I returned to Templed Hills with my cousin for Junior Camp. The memories from that camp are so fond they seem much less distant than what they really are. We spent a night camped under the stars, participated in camp Olympics together, went for polar bear swims early in the morning, cooked progressive dinners in the woods over a fire, made candles, tripped over ourselves on night hikes, cheered when our parents sent us letters in the mail, and learned that almost everyone gets homesick (even though not everyone shows it).

I have returned to Templed and Pilgrim Hills numerous times for various reasons, and it seems that even though my life and the people in it change from life season to life season, life at camp remains constant. I can count on its refreshment, its friendships, its ability to remind me about why I do what I do. I have taken youth group members to camp and watched them grow each passing year. They return to camp with fresh eyes each time we drive up the dirt roads and into a place where they truly feel welcomed and part of a family.

Let us continue to affirm camp.

Kim Deitrick

Camps not only, helped raise me - it still keeps me connected to the local church.

As a 33 year old I have attended camp, for what will be, 26 years this June.

I have learned more about myself through camp than anywhere else:

- My summer at Bright Beginnings, kept me involved in Sunday School.
- My summers at Choir Camp, sparked me to join the church choir.
- My summers at Sports Camp, grew my confidence in my faith journey.
- My summer on Site Staff, called me to change my major in College and graduate with Masters degree in Recreation.
- I remained involved in the Ohio Conference as a graduate student serving on the Blue Ribbon committee, and then moving onto Division of Outdoor Ministries, as a 'grown up'.
- The church I chose to become a member of, was because I knew people from camp there, because David's UCC was a supporter of camps.
- I now serve on boards, lead "Camp Sundays", at many local churches in recent years, and still am involved in the local church, because of camps.

It's hard to distinguish where this could have happened otherwise, but it happened at camp. At a place, that I have ownership of, as a member of the UCC, I belonged there. It is a place that is consistent, positive and where I connected instantly. Can that happen other places? Not sure, but what I am sure is that I want to make sure that I do all I can to save the place that saved me.

I've attend Pilgrim Hills as an adult for many years. I started by going to the "Floating with the Spirit" camp. It was a wonderful time and I returned the next year. During one of our evening campfires I discussed with the group about an opportunity that was available to me and if I should "go for it". I had been a stay at home mom for 10 years and wasn't sure I wanted to go back to work. The opportunity was a part-time Christian Education Director job at my church. That night was the first time I felt the Holy Spirit come over me and I accepted that position. Since that night, I have attended CE retreats at Temple and Pilgrim Hills and have been involved in FYE and Jr. High Event as either as a youth chaperon or on the planning team. The last couple of years I have helped direct the "Floating" camp. Every time, and I mean, every time I drive up to Pilgrim Hills I have that same feeling I did so many years ago around the campfire. Being at camp has effected many young people, but it also has changed my life as an adult.

I urge the Board of Directors to look deep in their hearts and to see that camp is important to all of us. God is definitely Still Speaking at our camps.

It has been many, many years since I attended camp at Pilgrim hills with a group of youth from the Stow Community Church, stow. The experiences I had there changed the course of my life. One summer in the late 50's, we met a Nigerian man named Issac. We learned first hand about race relations and how we are all so much alike. The feeling of safety and security for our youth is hard to find, but, I think it can be found in our well run camps

Camp was the best part of the summer for my twin sister and I when we were growing up. We went to pilgrim hills sports camp from 5th grade until we graduated then my sister went ad a counselor the year after hight school. We made so many friends that we still talk to to this day and we are now 36 years old. Every child should experience church camp.