By Amy Shores
Director of Pastoral Care at Methodist Family Health
Whether your memories of summer camp are real or formed from what you saw in movies, most of us know what summer camp is about. S’mores. Canoeing. Crafts. Bunk beds. Swimming.
But there is a segment of kids who have never heard of summer camp – or have any way to go to one. These kids are in the Division of Child and Family Services and live in therapeutic group homes at Methodist Family Health. For these children, their experience of summer is bouncing from a family member to a foster home to a group home.
Before coming to Methodist Family Health, their greatest desires were quieting their rumbling stomachs as they realize dinner isn’t coming, or having an hour or two to themselves after raising their younger siblings because their parents weren’t home (or weren’t able) to do so. Their summers were anything but carefree.
Each year, Methodist Family Health takes every resident in our therapeutic group homes throughout the state to a week-long summer camp at Camp Tanako on Lake Catherine in Garland County. The experience is a traditional one – fishing, crafts, and a carnival included – but the opportunity to just be a kid is not.
“Camp Tanako is a labor of love for the staff and volunteers who make it happen, but it’s one where we are rewarded with laughter from kids who haven’t had much to laugh about,” said Craig Gammon, United Methodist Children’s Home administrator and one of the masterminds behind Camp Tanako each year. “We have teenage boys ask to color and paint because they never have before. The girls love to kayak because it is a novel thing for them. All the kids’ needs are met, and the only thing they have to ponder is whether they swim or sunbathe. For our kids, it’s a week away from problems and troubles they are too young to face.”
This camp experience is made possible by the Rev. Robert Regnier Memorial Summer Camp Fund at the Methodist Family Health Foundation. Named in memory of former Methodist Children’s Home CEO Rev. Robert Regnier, this fund enables children who are residents of our group homes to enjoy a week of camp and outdoor activities, complete with campfires, arts and crafts, games, recreation, and spirituality services.
“The fund provides for rental of Camp Tanako for a week as well as all food and supplies for the kids attending,” said Carolyn McCone, CFRE, executive director of the Methodist Family Health Foundation. “Large or small, donations to the fund make it possible for our group home residents to have a time away they will never forget. It seems like a small thing, but it really means the world to the kids in our care.”
If you would like to contribute to the Rev. Robert Regnier Memorial Summer Camp Fund, there are several ways you can do so:
Text MFH to 501-881-2258;
Visit MethodistFamily.org/Donate to contribute online; Mail a check to Methodist Family Health Foundation, P.O. Box 56050, Little Rock, Arkansas 72215; Call 501-906-4209 to make a secure donation by phone.