For as long as he could remember, DelTon Alexander felt like a "bad kid." He missed his dad who was incarcerated—but the way his pain came out caused problems. He got into fights and was suspended from elementary school. His grandma took him to church, but DelTon wasn't interested in learning about the Bible. All that changed when he started going to Lake View Camp, an Angel Tree camping partner organization in Iowa, with help from Prison Fellowship donors.
A 'BAD KID' LOOKING TO BELONG
At Lake View Camp, DelTon experienced laughter and fun like he had never known before. He loved playing games and going swimming. But as a college-aged DelTon reflects on his favorite camp memories, the first thing he mentions is worship.
"I love how we're all loving on God as a group," he says.
He remembers joyful singing, engaging talks about the Bible, and counselors whose passion for God inspired him. No longer was he a "bad kid"—he was a kid who was accepted.
"At camp, you're able to be yourself, and all the counselors will continue to love you for who you are," he explains.
Camp became a yearly tradition for DelTon. Sometimes his faith would waver over the school year, but returning to camp strengthened him every summer. DelTon was able to attend Lake View Camp thanks to Angel Tree camping, which opens doors to camp for kids with an incarcerated parent through scholarships that cover all or part of the cost.
DelTon says his mom, while she did her very best for her kids, never could have afforded to send him otherwise.
In addition to fun and spiritual growth, DelTon experienced connection with other kids in the same situation. In a special way, he says, they could understand one another.
'At camp, you're able to be yourself, and all the counselors will continue to love you for who you are.'
FREEDOM FROM CHAINS
When DelTon was a freshman in high school, he became a counselor at Lake View Camp—a role he continued to fill throughout high school. For the first time, he saw himself as a leader. For the past four years, he has poured into the lives of elementary and middle school campers the way other counselors have done for him.
DelTon remembers singing a song at camp that had a profound impact on him as a teenager. The lyrics were about taking off the chains that Satan puts on us and being free in Christ. DelTon had been struggling with anger that he didn't have a dad around and jealousy of other kids who did.
"I felt like I took that weight off my shoulders," he says. "Once you look towards Christ for all you do have, you're able just to breathe and take it all off."
After that, DelTon started reading the Bible more consistently and keeping in touch with Lake View counselors over the school year to stay strong in his faith.
'I felt like I took that weight off my shoulders. Once you look towards Christ for all you do have, you're able just to breathe and take it all off.'
A CALLING TO LOVE
DelTon just finished his freshman year at Central College in Iowa. Part of his reason for choosing Central was the strong Christian fellowship there, including some other Lake View counselors.
Originally, DelTon thought he would study political science. But after a few months of praying about God's purpose for his life, he decided to switch to elementary education. He wants a career that will allow him to impact the lives of children the way he does at camp.
"[I want to make] their life better through my life," DelTon says. "I have a story, and every kid has a story. I want to find those kids with those stories and those struggles, and just be there for them. I want to be in their lives."
As DelTon reflects on who he is, he says it's impossible to overstate the role of Angel Tree camping.
"I wouldn’t be the person I am today without going to camp," he says. "I wouldn't be able to love as much and just see a different view in people's hearts. I'm super thankful for Lake View Camp."
'I wouldn't be the person I am today without going to camp. I wouldn't be able to love as much and just see a different view in people's hearts. I'm super thankful for Lake View Camp.'