History and Update on Camp Aldersgate

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In the summer of 1947, Camp Aldersgate was formally dedicated.  The original purpose of the Camp was to serve as a place for interracial fellowship, meetings, and Christian training.  A group of women from the Little Rock Methodist Council requested a grant of $25,000 from the Women’s Division of the General Board of Global Ministries to purchase a local turkey farm,  with more than 100 acres, to provide a place to accomplish that mission.  It became one of the first integrated facilities in the United States.

It was in the 1970’s that our own church member, Dr. Kelsy Caplinger, a Little Rock physician, organized the first medical camp for 12 children who had medical conditions that prevented them from attending other camps.  Weekend camps were soon started for children with special needs, allowing them a chance to experience the excitement of camp during the school year.  Space was also available for a free medical clinic operated by the Catholic Social Services.

Up until March 2020, Camp Aldersgate provided year-round social service programs for over 1,700 individuals of all ages and backgrounds.  During summer months, the Camp hosted week-long medical specific camps for children and youth with the following medical conditions: muscular dystrophy, spina bifida, diabetes, cardiac conditions, arthritis, kidney conditions, asthma, cancer and bleeding disorders.  They also provided weekend camps from August through May.

With the arrival of COVID-19 in early March, Camp Aldersgate staff, board members and local healthcare professionals came together to re-imagine Camp.  For the safety of the community and those served by the Camp’s mission- especially their high-risk, immunocompromised campers – they transitioned to a Virtual Summer Camp. This past summer, Camp staff and volunteers assembled and mailed approximately 300 boxes to campers from 35 counties in Arkansas and 5 states.  Overall, nearly 150 campers were able to attend Camp from the safety of their own homes and three had the chance to participate from the hospital!  Twenty-four volunteers also completed a staggering 568 hours of community service while leading activities and spending virtual time with their campers.

Currently, campers participating in Fall 2020 Weekend Camps can look forward to interactive virtual sessions modeled after Camp Aldersgate’s innovative 2020 Virtual Summer Camp design.  Each month during this program, 25-30 campers will be eligible to receive activity boxes with tools to explore new recreation and leisure pursuits, as well as access codes to interactive virtual events, providing the same sense of fun, engagement and belonging that they would receive if attending on-site residential camps.

Sunday, November 8, is the Camp Aldersgate’s Fish Fry.  The money from the sale of tickets helps to support the Virtual Camps.

Lesley Andrews

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