For many children and teens, summertime presents endless hours full of self-indulgence, sleeping in, lazing around and enjoying the free time that is elusive during the school year.
Yet, one popular summertime camp centers activities around putting others first and one’s own interests second. For participants at Serve Camp, it’s not about “I,” but about others.
The Christian-based camp is open to children from first through 12th grades and is offered over several weeks throughout the summer.
Sal D’Agostino, camp director and the pastor of Common Ground Church in Leesburg, said the goal of each camp week is to “expose young people to as many nonprofits and people in need to not only be empowered, but to be inspired.” The camp is based on the life and message of Jesus Christ that love leads to life, he said.
The daily community service, or “love projects” as the camp calls them, involve everything from visiting the elderly and working with homeless shelters and food banks to raising money for childhood cancer research and awareness. On the latter point, Serve Camp has raised more than $100,000 for childhood cancer through various efforts in just the past four years.
For older campers, significant attention is put on spotlighting future career choices working with community service organizations.
“We focus on relationship building while having fun,” D’Agostino said.
There are several changes for 2019, including the introduction of a five-day overnight camp for teens. The camp has also secured the use of a 100-acre property in Leesburg to offer an ample “outdoor playground” of sorts for participants. Transportation hubs are also available at local Chick-fil-a restaurants to offer parents alternative choices for pick-ups and drop-offs. As an added perk, parents can enjoy a free Chick-fil-a coffee in the mornings.
In its ninth year, Serve Camp is growing in popularity. D’Agostino notes that, as of early February, already 700 participants are signed up for the summer, with some weeks already approaching waitlist status. For more information, go to teenservecamp.com.