Finding HOPE - Camp Sunny Side

camp sunnyside michelle and laura.jpg

Except for an elite few, most adults have to work 12 months a year to keep the bill collectors at bay. Work is a given. We can practice our Christian values at work, but doing work that glorifies God isn't always obvious.

The position of camp counselor is a logical transition for college students and professional educators. Employees look for a nice camp with a narrow age range. Typically, active campers doing regular camp type activities is a given.  Why take a job where the campers could range from teens to seniors and have physical, mental and emotional issues?  Even if you took this job for one summer what would bring counselors back year after year for decades?

The answer is biblical.  It has to do with using your God given talents to help others.

 For over 30 years our handicapped daughter has spent each July at Camp Sunny Side in Camden County. When people ask what good their taxes do, you can point to how well Camden County takes care of their elderly and handicapped. Camden County Cares.

Camp Sunny Side, located on the campus of Camden County College, is staffed with loving people who realize the importance of viewing everyone as valuable.  They work with them within the confines of their limitations and fill their days with joy, song, sign language, art, computers, life skills and special events. Every week there is a field trip to either the movies, bowling, swimming or theatre.  The success of this program is obvious in multiple ways.

Every morning we arrive at the bus stop early and I watch the campers assemble. They practically jump out of the cars that bring them and wait joyfully until the bus arrives.  I doubt they would have the same demeanor if the camp wasn't fun.  The alternative is a summer alone in their rooms.  If you attend one of their special events it is obvious how the campers feel about each other and their counselors. You see true love and joy.

One of the early camp songs went, " keep your sunny side up, ooh, ooh….before the day is done we'll have a lot of fun."  NO truer words were ever sung. It's a good slogan for every human to follow.  Wouldn't it be refreshing to look for the joy of the day rather than the problem.

 Thank God there are people who make this program a reality. I thank camp administrators and directors, Judy Michelle, Matt and Jeremy and the dozens of other counselors and specialists who make this all possible.

To quote Michelle, "I am constantly encouraging my teacher peers to come work with me at Camp.  No matter how much I spew about how incredible it is to work with these amazing people, you just can’t put into words how deeply the campers touch your heart, and you feel like you are so lucky to get to work with them for 5 weeks. Honestly, I hate that I can’t do this job year round....I’m trying to figure out how I can. Now that I don’t go in every day, I seriously feel like a movie star when they run to go give me hugs or a smooch on the cheek. I love how excited they are to share their stories that I missed. I would honestly do this job for free because I love them all so much. Our staff become lifers because their souls intertwine with these special people and neither can get enough. You say the campers can’t wait for camp to start...well we feel the same!  It took years for me to be so lucky to have that little hand of Laura’s sneak up and grab mine as we walk quietly together down the hall without needing to say a word. The love is felt"

Philippians 2:3 “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.  Rather in humility value others above yourselves."   In this Finding Hope series, we were looking for active faith in real life.  Well for five weeks in July I can show you an entire camp of faith, hope and love. Adults who value the worth of others no matter their disability.  True faith in action.

Jim Randazzo