St. John Summer Camp draws diverse crowd of kids for four weeks of faith, fun

GREENVILLE—St. John United Methodist Church put together an active, fun, faith-based camp at their church this summer, welcoming close to 20 smiling faces for camp each day over the four weeks it was held.

The children ranged from age 4-11, with varying levels of experience with school and summer camp.

Held June 20-July 22 Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., each week of the camp was themed.

Week One was STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math), Week Two was Superheroes, Week Three was Beach and Week Four was Animals. Each week was paired with activities that fit the theme.

The camp director was Jo Underwood, daughter of pastor the Rev. Brian Underwood, with assistance from Rev. Underwood and Associate Director Devon Goodspeed. Jo Underwood is a sophomore at Charleston Southern University and Goodspeed is a sophomore at the College of Charleston.

Volunteer counselors included Aubrey Anderson of Trinity UMC, Fountain Inn, and Hunter Thomson, Alethea Thomson and Sasha Fleming, all of Grace Church. Volunteer aides were Gail Christian, Jackie Ramey and Mary Lou Stoner, all of St. John UMC, as well as local Girl Scout troops.

Underwood said some of the favorite activities included superhero power kebabs, Captain America shield frisbee, Chicken Stew Ball and painting rocks. Each day had a morning and afternoon snack and lunch, with the favorite lunch being pancakes and sausage cooked by Pastor Brian on Fridays.

In addition to tons of outdoor fun, free play and centers, each day had a specific activity.

Monday was art, where three different collegiate art students did engaging age-appropriate lessons with the kids. Tuesday was food creation, where the kids put together a themed snack for that week’s theme. Wednesday was chapel, where Liz Harper (Covenant UMC director of preschool children) and Bryce Keely (Trinity UMC, Fountain Inn, youth director) led classic children’s Bible stories with games, activities and open-aired Q&As. Thursday was music, with themed dancing and singing from several different sources. Friday was an “in house field trip,” where each week featured a guest program for the kids.

“Jo took my dream of a better camp than last year, and with countless hours and many friends accomplished an incredible camp,” said the Rev. Brian Underwood.

Week One featured an engineering teacher from a local middle school to do STEAM activities.

On Week Two, the Gantt Fire Department came to represent real-life superheroes and teach kids about fire safety. For Week Three, the counselors put together a field day for beach week complete with water games and a water-spraying battle. Week Four featured a dog trainer who brought dogs and talked about how to properly approach a dog you don’t know.

Jo Underwood said, “We all had an amazing time and I could not have asked for a better group of kids, nor could I have asked for it to go better. The last day was celebrated with a completion certificate ceremony and pictures with each camper—and lots of ice cream and popsicles, and of course love. Hopefully this can repeat in summer 2023!”

Connections throughout the Greenville area made the camp possible through donations of money, food and supplies coming from St. John UMC, McBee Chapel UMC, Trinity UMC United Methodist Men, Hopewell UMC and Covenant UMC.

“Through the generosity of many, many people, we were able to keep the camp fees very low and provide the campers with an amazing experience,” he said. “The love of Christ was conveyed to this diverse group of children, which included one child that only spoke Cantonese (a translation app on the directors phones allowed communication), two that were multilingual (English, Cantonese and Mandarin), and four children who were autistic.”

Children who recently lost parents were also part of the camp.

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