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Local Couple Offers Hope to Children With Incarcerated Parents At Camp New Day | Business

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Local Couple Offers Hope to Children With Incarcerated Parents At Camp New Day
Business, Crime, News, People
Local Couple Offers Hope to Children With Incarcerated Parents At Camp New Day

GRAND HAVEN, Mich., Jan. 4, 2013―For one week each summer over the past four-to-five years, Grand Haven residents Larry and Marion Fitch have counseled, mentored and helped kids at Camp New Day, which is held at Albright Campground in Reed City.  This is not a typical summer camp experience.  Camp New Day is designed strictly for 49 children, aged 9 to 14, who have a mom or dad serving time in prison.

“We hope to provide a week of fun activities and programs that share the message of Jesus’ love and plant some seeds that will grow and flourish somewhere in the future,” said Marion Fitch.

The Fitch’s became involved with Camp New Day when Beverly Williams, the daughter of a church member at United Methodist Church of the Dunes in Grand Haven—where the Fitch’s worship—presented a program about the camp.  Beverly had been the Camp Dean for the Senior High Camp for many years.

“I came home and told Larry about the camp and that they needed counselors.  He contacted Beverly and volunteered at the Senior High Camp that first year.  At that time, two separate camps were being held for elementary and teen students.  Larry came home completely hooked on the program,” said Fitch.

During the second year of Larry Fitch’s involvement in 2008, he worked at the teen camp.  It was at that time that he was invited to serve as dean of the Elementary camp.  Larry asked Marion if she was interested in serving as a camp counselor.

“I really prayed hard about it.   I didn’t feel working with younger kids was my calling,” said Fitch.

Since Larry was so enthusiastic about the program, Marion felt she should experience it to at least know what was inspiring Larry so much.  During the first year of her involvement, Marion was assigned to serve in a cabin of six, eight-year-old girls as their counselor.

“It was a tiring week but we had a great cabin and I got the bug,’ ” said Fitch, adding, “However, I decided to return as a support staff member and leave the cabin counseling to the younger women.”

Marion Fitch believes the most compelling reason community members should get involved in Camp New Day is because of the role adults can play as solid, professional mentors for the kids attending camp.

“They need Christian love and support and good role models,” said Fitch.

Camp New Day is offered one week each summer.  In 2010, because of cuts in funding, the Steering Committee determined they would not be able to run two complete camps, as was done previously.  Each camper in attendance is there through the support of scholarships received but the funding problem remains an issue.

In 2011 an outdoor camping/canoeing experience was offered to a limited number of students between the ages of 15 and 17 who have a parent in prison and had previously been involved in the elementary camp.  These students are also on full scholarships.  This camp is being scheduled for July―also based on available funds.

This year, the camp for younger children will run from July 7 to 12.  Larry Fitch plans to return as a counselor in a cabin of seven or eight boys, while Marion Fitch will work as a support staff member, filling in where needed or when a camp counselor is on break.

Although the camp lasts only one week, the Fitch’s will begin preparations several months ahead of time for the campers’ arrival.  They both serve on the Camp New Day Steering Committee and attend several meetings during the year for planning.  They are also required to do an overnight training session at Albright Camp in Reed City in May.

Even though the camp lasts only one week, there is evidence the camping experience and the camaraderie is making a difference in kids’ lives through this type of work.

“When we see how sad the kids are when they leave on Friday morning, we realize we have made an impact on their lives.  You can feel the love and friendships that have been formed during the week and there are many tears shed by kids and counselors alike,” said Fitch.

Keeping the program running smoothly requires the help of many willing volunteers each summer.  Considering there are 49 students, 20 volunteers are required to help care and mentor the kids.  Persons willing to serve as volunteer cabin counselors, support staff, as well as fund raisers, nurses, drivers to transport the kids, publicity experts, recruiters, registrars and camp underwriters are all needed.

Fitch says one of her favorite stories from camp is one that occurred around a kite-making craft experience a few years’ ago.

“We told the kids to make a kite and put a message on it to send to God.  We kept the kites and strung them up in the tabernacle the last day at Chapel so the kids could take them home.  One of the counselors didn’t think they would even want them but all but a few of the kites were claimed and taken home,” said Fitch.

Anyone interested in serving as a Camp New Day volunteer should contact Larry or Marion Fitch by phone:  616/296-0844 or  e-mail:  larrymarionfitch@att.net.  Visit the website at http://www.albrightcamp.org/links.php and view the Facebook page:  Camp New Day.

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