The Sports Crusaders, a Holts Summit, Mo., based ministry, partnered with First Baptist Church in Vilonia for a week in July, providing local children a place to build their skills and their faith.
Being coached by college-aged students, about 190 youngsters participated in the basketball and soccer camp. While it was faith-based, one did not have to have church affiliations to attend, said Dan Kerr, the FBC children’s pastor. He likened the camp to "a sports camp with a feel of Vacation Bible School." Participants were provided snacks and awards for attitude and helpfulness.
The Crusaders spend their summers traveling around the country putting on the one-week sporting camps.
The basketball team leader, Tim Otte of Hannibal, Mo., said Vilonia was the seventh stop on the team’s list this summer. In most communities there is a charge for participating. However, in Vilonia there was no charge. It was made possible, Otte said, through donations.
"This one is special," Otte said, referring to the camp, in more ways than one. "Some of the kids here not only lost their houses once but twice. The attitude of these kids is amazing. They are so tough but thankful. We just wanted to come here and tell them no matter what, God is in control, and this is in his hands."
The Crusaders also reached out to the community in other ways. They cleared brush on one farm. They took donated pizza to some families in need of food and delivered donated clothing to others.
During their stay, the 13 Crusaders from Missouri, Texas, Louisiana and Kansas were housed by church members.