First Camp SPARK makes impact on children

Wednesday, August 17, 2016
Young campers learn sign language, as part of the performing arts module of Camp SPARK, the first camp of its kind offered to Barry County children by First Baptist Church of Cassville. Contributed photo

Camp sparks creativity, enriches children

A brand new camp experience came to Cassville this summer -- Camp SPARK.

Sports and Arts for Kids, sparked by the ideas of staff members at First Baptist Church of Cassville, the camp was created to give local children the opportunity to create their own camp experience in the areas of sports, industrial arts, performing arts and creative arts, while still offering elements of traditional vacation Bible school.

Campers and volunteers take a moment out of their busy week for a group photo during Camp SPARK. The first-time camp was the brainchild of four staff members at First Baptist Church of Cassville, to give local children a unique camp experience involving performing arts, industrial arts and creative arts, along with elements of traditional vacation Bible school. About 115 children signed up, and according to Jeff Alley, recreation minister and adult education for First Baptist the children had a wonderful time. Contributed photo

"We haven't done traditional VBS for a number of years," said Jeff Alley,

recreation minister and adult education for First Baptist. "Instead of a traditional Bible school, this is what we offered for our kids, and they still received Bible stories and instruction.

"We averaged about 100 kids each day. We didn't know what to expect because this was the first time we'd done this. About 115 total signed up. It was an experience for kids to create their own camp experience and what they got to do was choose tracks they wanted to be a part of."

First Baptist Church of Cassville Pastor James Weaver visits with parents by an art project, in which local campers created beautiful benches with woodworking and mosaics during their week at Camp SPARK. Julia Kilmer/reporter@cassville-democrat.com

When children registered for the camp, they chose, in matter of preference, from a list of activities, including performing arts including singing, dance movement, rhythm instruments and sign language, sports clinics in basketball, baseball or martial arts, creative arts crafting activities in various mediums, woodworking and photography.

"For the most part, they got their first choice," Alley said. "They also got a full-sized Bible and T-shirt, and a Certificate of Accomplishment," Alley said. "[It] had words of encouragement each leader gave the kids that said things like, 'You showed teamwork, you worked really hard this week.' I think the kids had a great time."

The idea was the brainchild of church staff Alley, Jeanna Jones, children's ministry director, Jackie Hendrix, missions director, and Scott Stearns, music and drama minister.

One activity campers could participate in during Camp SPARK week, sponsored by First Baptist Church, was performing arts. Here, a group of girls perform a cheer skit, led by camp volunteers, for parents Thursday night for campers to show families what they learned. Julia Kilmer/reporter@cassville-democrat.com

"We are the four who designed it," Alley said.

On Thursday night, a family night event was held to invite families to see what the children had learned, view their artwork and creations, see performances, and enjoy hot dogs, ice cream and giveaways.

The children were also taught a verse for the week, 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 which states, "Be on your guard, stand firm in the faith, be courageous, be strong, do everything in love."

Jeff Alley, recreation minister and adult education for First Baptist Church of Cassville, holds a mic up for a camper during a presentation of rhythm instruments they made during their week of camp. Julia Kilmer/reporter@cassville-democrat.com

During the week, a contest was held between the boys and the girls to collect money for Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes, which sends shoeboxes oversees to children filled with Christmas gifts. The goal was to raise $500, and as of Thursday evening at the family night event, Alley announced that $330 had been raised. By the end of the next day, however, $1,157.43 was raised, far surpassing their goal. During the last day of camp, children enjoyed a movie and games.

The week-long event provided local families an inexpensive outlet to enrich childrens' lives and provide meaningful activities and entertainment in a positive environment, at a cost of only $25 per child.

"The bulk of the funding was the church budget," Alley said. "We had a family price of $25 for the first two, and $10 per child thereafter, and we scholarshipped some kids, but it didn't near cover our costs. But our church is very gracious when it comes to giving back."

Campers practice a song during a fun-filled week at Camp SPARK, a first-time camp experience sponsored by First Baptist Church of Cassville to give local children a camp offering a variety of arts with an element of vacation Bible school. Contributed photo

"I think that everyone involved, kids, volunteers and parents, had a great time," Jones said. "And I think the camp is something that scratched an itch in our community. Some kids were hesitant at first, but their parents encouraged them, and they had a blast. And every child heard the gospel. My hope is that we reached several families for Christ."

During Family Night at Camp SPARK, sponsored by First Baptist Church of Cassville, a camper shows basketball blocking skills she learned during the week. Julia Kilmer/reporter@cassville-democrat.com
A camper shows off basketball skills he learned during Family Night at Camp SPARK. The week-long camp experience was sponsored by First Baptist Church of Cassville, and offered Barry County children choices of performing arts, industrial arts and creative arts experiences, with elements of traditional vacation Bible school. The children also received a free Bible at the end of the week. Julia Kilmer/reporter@cassville-democrat.com
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