It is with deep appreciation to a large group of volunteers and attendees that we look back on the Camp Hope Festival that we held at the camp on October 3. Nestled in the woods on the bank of the Lewis River, Camp Hope indeed is a place of restoration and hope—a safe place to gather—and gather we did! Hundreds of supporters walked, strolled, and skipped through the camp as they explored all that the festival had to offer. One attendee remarked how the river was so beautiful and calming as she drove in; she related how a peaceful presence permeated the entire camp. It is in this place of hope and renewal that our festival came to life, and brought in almost $5000 in profit!
As we prepared for the event, hundreds people and organizations stepped forward with donations and offered assistance of many kinds—hauling brush, giving raffle prizes, donating drinks and apples, baking goodies, decorating, and volunteering at the event—just to name a few of the ways our community supported our fundraiser. Each connection was filled with joy and anticipation of the big day. At times, we wondered, "Would everything really come together? Would we be able to pull all the pieces together? Would our vision see the light of day? Would people come?
However, when the day dawned bright and glorious, exuberance abounded in our preparations. Many times, we had to gain composure as we watched our community come together to support our event. Teens and pre-teens rallied to help; they ran (literally!) many errands. All morning long, we found ourselves with ready helpers at our elbows. Jobs were given, duties were accomplished, and spirits soared. One little girl whose life has been particularly difficult, marveled "I feel so light here." . . . Wow. This is what Camp Hope is all about—offering a haven of hope.
Sun streamed through the stately trees, the campfire leapt, guitars were strummed, stuffed animals left the country store and found new owners, faces were painted, chili was consumed, and children danced. It was the stuff of dreams. Dreams that were born three years ago when a small band gathered in a dilapidated camp in a grove of trees. Dreams that continue in the happy smiles of youthful volunteers cheerfully painting faces and pumpkins. Dreams that help connect young and old; dreams that join us together in a common bond of interlocking humanity. Whether we work or play together, we are building community; strengthening our bonds of connectedness, creating meaning in our lives.
And so, it is with a sense of sweet satisfaction that we file our notes on our first Camp Hope Festival. We are deeply appreciative to every contributor and attendee who helped make our fall family festival a fantastic success. Our mission is being accomplished—we are providing a safe place for youth to gather, connect, learn, grow, and thrive. . . . And we are thankful.