Right now, thousands of youth across America are packing their bags for childhood's most basic rite of summer—a week away at camp. Through Angel Tree Camping®, Prison Fellowship® is making camp possible for children with incarcerated parents.
From rope swings and ziplines to horseback riding and swimming, a week with Angel Tree Camping is a chance for these kids to have fun, fellowship with their peers, build relationships with caring camp counselors, and just "be a kid."
An extension of Prison Fellowship's Angel Tree® Christmas program, Angel Tree Camping began in 2002 with a generous donation that fully funded camps to sponsor Angel Tree children for several years.
While Prison Fellowship does not directly operate any camp facilities, we rely on partnerships with well-established Christian camp organizations nationwide to sponsor children of prisoners. We support children through partial or full scholarships, and we connect our camping ministry partners with potential campers and the churches that serve them at Christmas.
Some partner camps offer a special session just for Angel Tree campers. Others serve Angel Tree kids throughout their summer season. Angel Tree provides guidance and resources to help churches explain the benefits of camp to the children’s caregivers, complete the sign-up process, and help provide any supplies the kids will need for camp. Volunteers receive a supply of quality tote bags and Bibles—one for every sponsored child.
And no child leaves camp without hearing the message of Christ's love.
No child leaves camp without hearing the message of Christ's love.
GIVING HOPE ALL YEAR
Before camp, Kerri had only heard Jesus' name as a curse word. Both parents grappled with addiction, and her dad was always in and out of prison. Often Kerri and her siblings stayed in foster care. When she did live with her parents, Kerri's experiences made her feel neglected and unwanted.
Like Kerri, children of prisoners are some of America's most at-risk boys and girls—more likely to be held back in school, face economic hardship in adulthood, and endure serious health problems and unresolved traumas. Still, they are resilient, full of potential, and fearfully and wonderfully made in God's image. They have real capacity to overcome their circumstances, and Angel Tree strives to invest in that potential all year.
In fiscal year 2018:
- 7,157 children with incarcerated parents attended an Angel Tree camp on Prison Fellowship scholarships
- 135 camping partners from 32 states sent children to camp on Angel Tree scholarships
- Scholarships cost $200 per camper for overnight camps and $100 per camper for approved day camps.
A LIFE-CHANGING ADVENTURE
Angel Tree volunteers delivered gifts on behalf of Kerri's dad one Christmas. Not long after, Kerri began attending an Angel Tree summer camp.
"I was really angry my first couple of years [at camp] because I didn't feel love at home," Kerri admits. But caring camp staff were there to listen, to encourage, and to show her the love of Christ. Kerri kept participating in Angel Tree Camping year after year. That summer, after an unforgettable evening of worship, she accepted Christ as her Savior.
Today Kerri is an Angel Tree camp counselor, pouring into children's lives and helping them experience God. Angel Tree Camping connections also helped her finish high school and aspire to college—and a more hopeful future.
"Thank you so much, Angel Tree," says Kerri, "for not only changing my life, but changing all these other kids' lives and bringing a broken community together and making it whole."
An uplifting week of camp can have an impact on the entire family. The caregiver can enjoy a week of respite and a chance to catch up on other responsibilities. The incarcerated parent may be deeply moved to know that his or her child was cared for in a special way. And together, the whole family can have a chance to experience hope and restoration.
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