This is not a typical summer camp experience. Camp New Day, which takes place at the Albright Camp and Retreat Center in Reed City, is designed strictly for 49 children, ages 9-14, 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,” Marion said.
The Fitches became involved with Camp New Day when a program on it was presented at United Methodist Church of the Dunes in Grand Haven, where they are members. Beverly Williams, the daughter of a church member and a former the camp dean for the Senior High Camp for many years, presented the program.
“I came home and told Larry about the camp and that they needed counselors," Marion said. "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."
Larry worked at the teen camp during his second year. He was then invited to serve as dean of the elementary camp, and Larry asked Marion if she was interested in serving as a camp counselor.
“I really prayed hard about it," she said. "I didn’t feel working with younger kids was my calling."
Since Larry was so enthusiastic about the program, Marion felt she should experience it to at least know what was inspiring her husband. Marion was assigned to serve in a cabin of a half-dozen 8-year-old girls as their counselor.
“It was a tiring week, but we had a great cabin and I got the bug," Marion said. “However, I decided to return as a support staff member and leave the cabin counseling to the younger women.”
Marion said adults should get involved in Camp New Day because of the role they can play as solid, professional mentors for the kids.
“They need Christian love and support, and good role models,” she said.
In 2010, because of cuts in funding, the camp's steering committee determined they would not be able to run two complete camps. Each camper in attendance is there through the support of scholarships.
In 2011, an outdoor camping and canoeing experience was offered to a limited number of students ages 15-17 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 scheduled for July, based on available funds.
This year, the camp for younger children will run July 7-12. Larry said he plans to return as a counselor in a cabin of seven or eight boys, while Marion 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 Fitches 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 planning meetings during the year. They are also required to do an overnight training session at the Albright campground in May.
Keeping the program running smoothly requires many volunteers. Adults willing to serve as volunteer cabin counselors, support staff, fund raisers, nurses, drivers to transport the kids, publicity experts, recruiters, registrars and camp underwriters are all needed.
For details, call Larry or Marion Fitch at 616-296-0844 or e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org.