For the third year in a row, Conway Christian has opened its doors during the summer months to serve.
In 2015, president and CEO Jason Carson joined the school community. In his role, he began having conversations with varying community organizations, including Pediatrics Plus, a specialized pediatric health care provider started in 2002.
While the company had held its own summer camps for clients for years, Carson told the Log Cabin Democrat that with it being a Conway-based company and Conway Christian being a part of the community, what better way to serve than to open the campus to their needs.
He said Peds Plus is an organization that understands the needs in the community for kids who have learning differences.
“For us to be able to host someone like [Peds Plus], and see these kids who wouldn’t normally get these opportunities, have a summer camp opportunity is really fulfilling for us and we hope it serves the families of our community really well. It’s something we look forward to continue doing.”
Around 35 of Peds Plus’s usual patients have been attending the summer camp, which started June 3 to July 19.
Director Crystal Hampton said each week they have a different them. Last week was rainforest, this week, camp out and next week, it’ll be stars and stripes for the Fourth of July holiday.
“Just themes that we think other camps would have just so they can have a similar experience,” she said.
Hampton said this is something Peds Plus noticed years ago; the need for inclusion. She said their client’s siblings would come in and jump into all the fun things they did at camp that day and where they went, etc.
“But, [our clients] couldn’t go to that because of their disorders or what was going on with them so, we wanted them to be able to have a cool camp to go to, to be able to go home and tell their siblings, ‘guess what I got to do today,’” Hampton said.
Not only is it fun for them, she said, but it’s still educational and academic, interactive and growth-oriented, so when they head back to school in the fall, they haven’t regressed.
Another thankful group she’s noticed is the parents. Hampton said they’re getting to send all their kids to camp, to enjoy the summer, avoiding the “sitting in front of the TV all summer” issue, knowing their children are not just being babysat.
“They’re improving and they’re working on their social skills,” she said. “Here they still get the peer interaction.”
While this is her first summer doing the camp, Hampton said she already has a favorite aspect: interactions among students.
“[Seeing] the kids form relationships with each other [...] It’s so fun to [hear] if a kid has been gone for two days and then he comes back, they’re all like, ‘how are you doing,’” she said, showing enthusiasm. “They get excited about seeing their friends again.”
Hampton said each student is mastering that relationship building very well, a hard to skill to accomplish for anyone.
“They’re being such great friends to each other,” she said.
On the other side of the school campus, Conway Christian was also playing host to around 200 additional students during the KampOut Day Kamp, a one-week, high-energy traveling day camp organized through Kanakuk’s summer camp program, which has made its way to the local school for the past three years, bringing in thousands of young students over the years.
In the same way that the Peds Plus clients were navigating social skills and summer friendships, so were KampOut attendees through Bible lessons and hands-on activities with their peers like the zip line, the rock wall, water slides, outside games, inside archery and more.
Director Starr Peterson told the LCD the Kanakuk team will be welcomed into various cities throughout their 10-week traveling summer program, which will bring in around 9,000 or so campers, just with them; more than 20,000 overall.
She said it’s fun taking camp on the road, using it in an exciting and fun way to bring the gospel to families.
“It’s been so fun being in Conway this week,” Peterson said. “It’s been really cool, just this community, it’s just very welcoming and so kind.”
Kugaho Kamp was started in 1926 by C.L. Ford of Dallas, Texas, and was later changed to Kanakuk Kamps in 1932 by Director Bill Lantz.
“Since 1926, Kanakuk has been the Christian summer camp for [more than] 300,000 youth,” the website stated. “As a world leader among Christian summer camps, Kanakuk provides children with fun, safe and professional outdoor youth camping experiences that grow them spiritually, physically, emotionally and socially.”
In addition to the two previously mentioned camps, Conway Christian was also playing host to a baseball tournament as well.
For Carson, it all goes back to serving and meeting the needs of the community they are a part of.
“We just feel like God’s really blessed us with the facilities we have,” he said. “During the summer we’re not using it like we do during the school so what better opportunity than to let great organizations like Pediactrics Plus and Kanakuk [Christian summer camp] come use our facilities.