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Unprecedented need: Too many prisoners' kids have never had a chance to go to camp or hear about the love of Jesus. GOAL: Send 10,000 kids to Angel Tree camp this summer.
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“There are so many great things I’ve learned about God. It’s brought me so close to Him.” —Zoey, MISSOURI
“Thanks to you, I accepted Christ at that camp.” —DUPREE, COLORADO
“It’s a really cool experience to come to a place where you can have fun but learn about God at the same time.”—ASHLEY, MIRACLE RANCH
“I’m super grateful to Angel Tree for setting me on this path.”—SYDNEY, IOWA
Watch this video and see the incredible impact you can have in a child's life.
Too many kids like Vaughan end up on the wrong path. He has two older brothers who have spent time in prison—just like their dad.
But Vaughan has beaten the odds. He's become a follower of Jesus and has broken the cycle of crime that did so much damage to his family.
You see, when Vaughan was in 8th grade, someone like you helped send him to an Angel Tree camp.
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"I just wanted to have fun with my friends, and I did," Vaughan says. "They had a rope course, go-karts, indoor basketball, and swimming." But camp was a lot more than just a place where a kid from the humble side of town could have a good time for a week.
At camp, Vaughan learned that there were people who genuinely cared about him—and a God who loved him too.
"I went to church when I was little, and I always prayed," Vaughan recalls, "but I wasn't really listening to God. At camp, I started to relate to God in a different way."
The relationships he formed at camp—and a growing relationship with Christ—kept Vaughan from giving up when life got hard. "I wanted to avoid the streets," he says. "I've seen it, and I was like, I'm not that type of person."
It took discipline, hard work, and a lot of prayer, but Vaughan stayed out of trouble, finished high school, and is now enrolled in college.
Vaughan is studying to become a teacher because, as he likes to explain, "It's a circle of goodness—somebody mentored me, and now I can do that for someone else."
Can you even imagine being a kid and not knowing what summer camp was? As unbelievable as it may seem, that was Nina's reality. She was the child of a prisoner. There were a lot of things she never got to do.
But when Nina was 8 years old, she got a letter in the mail. And when Nina and her mom opened the letter, they found out Nina had just been invited to spend a week at an Angel Tree camp.
She was nervous. It was her first time away from home. But before long, Nina was having such a great time that she forgot all about being homesick. She had a blast on the zip line. She fell in love with swimming, rock climbing, and canoeing.
Nina wouldn't have been able to experience any of those things if it hadn't been for Angel Tree Camping.
Camp became Nina's safe place. "I remember struggling to fit in at school. At camp, I fit in," she says. Her counselor was like an older sister she could talk to about anything.
But what Nina remembers most about camp is the impact it had on her relationship with Jesus.
Angel Tree camping
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"I went to church with one of my mother's friends," Nina recalls, "but there was no one my age, and it just wasn't really geared to what I needed at the time, so I wasn't that excited to go."
Camp was different, she says. "Camp helped show me who Jesus really is."
Nina also says, "I loved the camp songs. I would learn them and sing them at home all year long."
She credits Angel Tree Camping with keeping her centered during her difficult teenage years. "I don't know if I would have stayed following Jesus if it wasn't for camp," she says. "It helped me to have somebody checking in on me—like, 'Hey, you know God still loves you!' Camp kept me connected to God and kept me growing in my relationship with Him."
Kerri’s words are heartbreaking. And they've been sharpened by the bitter pain of feeling unwanted.
Whether they intended to or not, Kerri’s parents sent her the message that they loved their addictions more than their family. And would rather shoot poison into their arms than hold their kids.
“I didn’t feel loved at home,” Kerri recalls. “I didn’t have someone in my life that truly cared about me.”
But when Kerri’s parents went to prison, her already difficult situation became nearly impossible.
And she couldn't shake the voice that was raging inside her—telling her she didn’t even deserve to be loved.
Angel Tree camping
will change a child’s life forever!DONATE NOW
Kerri had only dreamed of an experience like an Angel Tree camp. And it was exactly what she needed—a refuge where she could have fun, enjoy the great outdoors, and make new friends.
But what makes her story even more powerful is that camp is where Kerri learned that God loved her.
“I didn’t know who Jesus was,” she confesses.
It didn’t happen overnight. It wasn’t a one-moment experience. Kerri needed consistent love. She needed affirmation from adults who believed in her and cherished her. That's what she received at an Angel Tree camp. And at Christmas, too, because people like you loved her through Angel Tree.
Eventually God’s love broke down the walls she’d built, and Kerri gave her life to Jesus. She finally was able to let go of her anger and hurt.
The angry little girl was gone forever. A beautiful young woman now stood in her place.
“Thank you so much,” Kerri says with tears in her eyes. “Not only for changing my life, but changing all these other kids’ lives, and bringing a broken community together and making it whole.”
Peyton was only in 1st grade when her dad went to prison. And she missed him—desperately. She became a sad, angry child. She had no one to talk to, and not a single friend who understood what she was going through.
Even visiting her dad in prison just left Peyton feeling empty. "I remember weeks when I would go to see him but wouldn't say anything," she admits. "Some days it hurt too much and I just couldn't do it."
But when Peyton was 12, she was invited to spend a week at an Angel Tree summer camp.
Angel Tree camping
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Camp was like a dream come true. Peyton had a lot of fun. And she left the problems that haunted her at home behind her for a while.
But what made the biggest impression was the people she met—and the message of God's unconditional love.
"I've met so many good people through being a camper," Peyton says. "Especially as a 12-year-old, knowing you're in a place where everyone is going through what you're going through. That was really big in creating friendships and relationships."
Hearing over and over that she was loved and that she was worthy of God's love fed a hunger that lived deep in her soul.
Peyton had an amazing camp counselor, she says—someone who saw her hurt for what it was and had the courage to just love her. And then, during the message on the last night of camp, God spoke to Peyton's heart.
That night, Peyton gave her life fully to Jesus.
Peyton would tell you that Angel Tree Camping "put me back on the path I was supposed to be on." She's in college now, and that keeps her busy, but she still makes time for youth group at a nearby church and says she will always remember the difference that Angel Tree made in her life.
Peyton also says there is a message in her heart for people like you.
"Acts of love go so far, especially with kids who are affected by incarceration and broken families," she says. "Small things have a huge impact, whether it's getting a gift or it's getting to go to camp, getting to be around other people who have similar stories, or just being able to connect with someone who wants to teach you about the love of Jesus. These things really can change the course of somebody's life."
When the police snapped the cuffs around his dad's wrists, Zeeke wasn’t thinking about his future. Zeeke was only 12 then. He didn’t know that what had just happened meant that his life would be changed forever.
All Zeeke knew was that his dad was gone. And all he wanted was for his dad to be released and come back home. “To have him taken away was heartbreaking,” Zeeke says. That it happened when Zeeke needed him the most made Zeeke's life…almost unbearable.
With his dad gone, Zeeke couldn’t shake an overwhelming sense of emptiness. There was a hole in his gut that nothing could fill. It didn’t matter how much he excelled at basketball. It didn’t matter that his grades were strong. It didn’t even matter that Zeeke had a loving mom and sisters, who stood behind him and supported him. Zeeke needed more.
Zeeke needed the wholeness only a father—The Father—could give him. He felt trapped by a darkness that wouldn’t lift. But, one day, Zeeke was invited to spend a week at an Angel Tree summer camp—much like the week that you can help give to another child today.
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Zeeke had never been to camp before. He admits he was nervous at first and didn’t know what to expect. But he soon lost himself in the fun of sailing, trying out the zip line, and making new friends. He enjoyed getting to know his counselor, who made a special effort to take Zeeke under his wing.
That week, Zeeke also made an important discovery—that he and his sisters weren’t the only ones living with the pain of having a parent behind bars. “It was eye-opening to know I wasn’t alone,” he says.
At camp, Zeeke also grew in his understanding of God's love for him. And he realized God wanted a personal relationship with him through Jesus Christ.
Later that year, Zeeke and his family got plugged into a new church with a “phenomenal” youth ministry. That’s when Zeeke made a firm decision to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior.
Starting with his sophomore year in high school, Zeeke also began working as a counselor at an Angel Tree camp.
“I will forever be grateful for Angel Tree camp,” Zeeke says. He claims that, more than anything, it taught him that “there’s a way out of what you’re going through.”
Just look at all the locations where Angel Tree kids will go to camp this summer!
For prisoners' children, camp is a refuge. It's a safe place to get away from their problems, experience the great outdoors, make new friends, and just be kids. But most important, at an Angel Tree camp, prisoners' kids hear the Gospel, and many receive Jesus as Savior and Lord.