It began with trying to raise $22,000 through the College Rivalries Campaign. Each of the 22 cabins represented a different college and had a “College Captain” who was willing to try to raise $1,000 from other alumni and to solicit his or her school for college t-shirts for the kids in that cabin and decorations for the cabin itself. On the eve of camp, we were able to reach our goal with a $500 donation from Rutgers coming in to bring us to $22,070 just hours before camp began! We are thankful that God would provide for us in this important way.
Paradise Farm Camps has 22 cabins which can each be filled with 4 Chester campers, 2 high school Counselors and 1 adult Chaperone. We filled every single one of those 88 camper spots and somehow every child turned in their paperwork, physicals, immunization records, $25 money order, photograph, and parental consent forms just in time to be reviewed by our nurses. A few of those kids just barely made it, but they did and we were full.
We are excited to announce that 6 of our Counselors and Chaperones this year came from Chester, PA and Philadelphia! Jehmi, shown on the right was one of our Counselors!
Above is Cierra, one of the Counselors, and her photograph from 5 years ago is actually already on our website. In it she was posing with Andrew on one of his Chester trips! Now she is a Counselor serving younger Chester children!
That speaks to the faithfulness of God and how He brings all things to completion in His own time. We did fill all 44 Counselors and 22 Chaperones spots but struggled this year with lots of drop outs near camp week, for very understandable reasons. For each one that dropped out, God always provided a new volunteer to fill that spot. That process was so challenging and uncertain at many times, but we serve a Faithful God! Only He was able to do that recruiting and fit the right Campers with the right Counselors and Chaperones. His divine choreography and planning was obvious to everyone at camp.
In addition to God’s provision, we also experienced His protection at camp. On the first night there was a horrendous thunder and lightning storm and at 1:45am lightning hit one of the cabins on the Day Camp side of Paradise Farm Camps, just a few hundred yards from where the boys at camp were sleeping. One of the female Chester Campers, Jasmine Caple, had woken up to use the bathroom and saw the raging fire in the distance. Thinking clearly, she awoke her Counselor, Semaj Smith, who woke up Karen Hicks. Karen, seeing the clear threat to camp, called 911 and raced by car to the boys’ side of camp. She screamed for all the boys to wake up and get out of their cabins.
Jasmine Caple, shown above, was a hero at camp, waking up at just the right moment to alarm her Counselor and get the children who were closest to the fire moved to safety! She kept a level head and remembered exactly what to do in case of emergency!
Through the continuing terrible rain, thunder and lightning, all the campers hurried to the girls’ side of camp and met at the dining hall. We are grateful that the Lord kept us all safe and that no one was injured at Camp Paradise. Sadly, the firefighters were not able to save the building and it burned to the ground. We had just practiced the emergency procedures earlier on Sunday when the kids first arrived, so everyone knew just what to do to stay safe. Each and every Chester parent was called in the morning to let them know about the fire and that their children were safe.
The picture above, taken a few hours after Karen’s 911 call, shows the building that was struck by lightning and burned to the ground.
The next day’s activities began a bit late since everyone had lost so much sleep, but the day was none-the-less full of fun things to do and everyone’s minds were distracted by the plan for fun! The children participated in swimming, archery, fishing, canoeing and rock wall climbing. Many of the Campers had never been to camp before so a lot of them were experiencing them for the very first time. The children can sometimes be hesitant to try out a new skill, but with the help of some very encouraging Counselors, they were able to get the courage up to give it a try.
Every meal at camp is served family style and each Camper gets the chance to be the “hopper” for his or her table. That job includes setting the table, bringing the trays of food to the table, clearing and wiping the table, and then getting dessert. It’s a fun job with a lot of responsibility since whenever refills are needed, only the hopper can get up to retrieve them. Everyone eats plenty at camp and always enjoys the food.
After lunch every day the cabins all competed in College Rivalries. During this part of the day the Campers, Counselors and Chaperones all wear their college t-shirts. Monday’s competitions were a series of 11 silly games and the cabins had the chance to go head to head to try to earn points. Tuesday’s Rivalry grouped some of the cabins together and they competed against other groups in large sports games. On Wednesday one boy cabin was paired with one girl cabin and each of the pairs competed in a Photo Scavenger Hunt. They were supposed to go to 15 different locations and take a picture at each location with their group doing something silly. That game was super fun and completely exhausting!
Every night the entire camp would meet at Camp Fire. On Monday night, Jim Mora, the Educational Director at Camp, taught the kids lots of “repeat after me” songs and we also heard each cabin’s school cheer! Quinn Ranier, one of the Henderson Counselors, played guitar to some very familiar songs and everyone sang along with her. It was wonderful1 That was followed by two more of our Counselors, Jaxson Hoey and Jenna Maratea, teaching us some more sing-along songs. On Tuesday night one of the lifeguards brought her ukelele and played for us and the whole camp hummed and snapped and sang along with her. On the final night of camp we were treated to a wonderful 3-piece band called G Minor, made up of three 11 year old kids. They put on a fantastic show for the camp, playing very popular Top 40 songs and a few classics. The concert quickly became a dance party and every kid was on the floor moving and shaking.
That night, after the dance party, the whole experience culminated with each cabin receiving a giant paper lantern and the kids had the chance to light theirs and watch the Grand Ascension into the still night sky. It was absolutely beautiful!
After our last Morning Reflection (which begins every single day at camp), the kids participated in an all-camp game of The Ultimate Race. The cabins were given clues about where they needed to race to and when they arrived at the spot, they had to successfully perform an activity in order to get the next clue. It was tons of fun for everyone and a really great way to end the week. Everyone was exhausted and then it was time to pack up to go home.
That part is always so sad. The children all receive a terrific individual award (made up by their Counselors) for successfully completing camp, but then its time to say goodbye and everyone starts to cry, sad that the experience is coming to an end. As is the case every single year, terrific friendships are formed at camp. Counselors get to know other Chaperones well and vice versa and the kids bond with their Counselors and Chaperones and form a family. Its a beautiful thing to watch.
The Andrew L. Hicks, Jr. Foundation acknowledges that God’s hand is on us as we pray about Camp Paradise, plan for it, solicit funds to pay for it, recruit Counselors and Chaperones and as the kids sign up to come. He brings us the nurses we need, the supplies we need, and all the resources that are necessary. It is only because of His great provision and protection that Camp Paradise has been such an incredible experience for so many for the past 4 years. Many, many, many people contribute so much to make this possible. We are humbled by the commitment and resources of our West Chester community and for the interest and excitement and appreciation we feel from Chester. We are already looking forward to Camp Paradise 2015!
The following poem was written by Matt Tuttle, a HHS Counselor at Camp Paradise about his experience at camp:
This story begins on a Tuesday night
where my friends and I were about to set flight
to our cabins before we saw the mystical sight.
This is no ordinary thing you see,
it’s a box of pizza waiting for thee.
So all of the counselors all agreed
to bring it back to our cabin under the tree.
Later that day we heard the news,
that an unwanted creature was causing th blues
all due to the mystical sight,
the box of wonderful delight.
What all of the campers claimed to see
was a ginormous mouse that was six foot three.
I didn’t know what to say or do
as kindly as I could I gave my adieus.
If we fast forward 6 hours from now,
causing mischief without making even making a sound
as we moped around like basset hounds.
Until one of us decided to say,
“hey guys I’m tired so I’m hitting the hay.”
As I lay in my bed facing the rafters
I woke to a scream and hysterical laughter.
As my chaperone rose and ran for the lights
my camper was screaming which was quite a sight.
Kicking and yelling there was so much to see,
as the monster appeared and gave us a peep.
He flew to the rafters and ran out of sight.
Leaving us trembling in fear for the night.
So what was this creature so dark and so fierce,
a small flying squirrel with cute furry ears.
The First Responders to the fire at Camp Paradise
Paradise Farm Camps
Krapf Bus Company
The Ward and Shannon Families
The McCool Family
Terry Boate, RN and Elaine Fuguet, RN
Sage Perisse, LemonLight Films
All 22 College Captains and their Representative Universities: