Kids go to Salvation Army camp

Published 9:43 pm Saturday, July 29, 2017

More than two dozen Suffolk children have been able to attend camp this summer thanks to the Salvation Army.

Some of the 25 children are attending camp multiple weeks, and it’s all at no cost to their families. The Salvation Army paid the entire cost — $6,250 — for all of the children.

“I think it’s important for us to provide them with an experience that many of them wouldn’t have otherwise,” said Capt. Shauntrice Anthony of the Suffolk Salvation Army Corps. “Just being able to give them an experience that a lot of them wouldn’t get to have otherwise is really why we do it.”

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Activities at Camp Happyland, located in Richardsville, include swimming, fishing, boating, archery and a ropes course, Anthony said, among other activities.

“We had one, Makaylah Council, that was in the music conservatory,” she said. “She stayed at camp for a whole month.”

Campers have their own bed and a guaranteed three hot meals a day, which all of them may not get at home, especially during the difficult summer months for families.

“A lot of these kids, if they didn’t go to camp they probably wouldn’t be able to do these things,” Anthony said.

But the most important aspect of camp is the faith-based instruction, Anthony said.

“They don’t just go to camp for the recreation,” she said. “Our camp is Bible-based as well. You have a lot of the kids that come back and tell us they accepted Jesus Christ through their week at camp.”

Anthony herself was one of those kids once. She started going to Camp Happyland at the age of 9 and accepted Jesus at camp.

“My relationship with Jesus Christ was real after I went to camp,” she said. “I finally understood what it meant.”

She later met, started dating and got engaged to her now-husband, Lt. Johnny Anthony, while at Camp Happyland.

“Some of the best memories of my life, most of them have to do with Camp Happyland,” she said. “I knew I wanted to be an officer just by working at camp. For me, it’s like a second home.”

Most of the children who went to camp this summer said they enjoyed swimming and visiting the canteen to get snacks.

“I’d give it a 10 out of 10,” Mykhai Wiggins, 10, quipped. “I was homesick for three days, but I got rid of it. It was pretty fun.”

It was the first year of camp for La’Toya Bazemore, 12.

“It was pretty fun,” she said.

Anthony said the children often return home and want to go back immediately.

“I see changes being made in our kids’ lives, the same changes that were being made 21 years ago when I started going to camp,” she said. “The opportunity we give the children in Suffolk to go to camp is very important. I think camp should be a program our community gets behind. We’d love to send more than 25.

“It changes lives, and it makes a big difference, and it makes an impact on our kids,” she said.