Inspiration from Young People:  St John’s Summer Camp

We have all been given the gift of joy at birth 

Back to all stories | Posted on 06/18/21 in BlogFundraising

This past year presented numerous challenges, but parishes like St John’s found unique ways to overcome the difficulties and empower young people to make a difference in the world. 

Daily life at St. John’s is filled with joy, joy for fun, joy for life, joy for faith and joy for charity. One of their key annual activities is the summer camp program. Rich Olon, Minister of Religious Education & Youth Ministry at St. John Francis Regis Parish, celebrated the camp’s 10th year during the summer of 2020, despite difficulties of the pandemic. Though the special activities were cancelled, the camp opened and operated for 8 weeks. He shared his reflections about their experience this year in hopes to encourage others. 

“Spiritually it was the best summer we ever had and the most fruitful. I think part of that was because there was nothing competing for everyone’s time outside of camp hours. We have many of “after work” programs to build community, and the instructors were able to attend everything. It was an amazing summer. But it will be nice to get back to ‘normal’ this summer”.  

While the camp is Catholic, Rich shared what he believes makes the camp attractive to all faiths and none. “What’s interesting is that the most frequent compliment we hear is how much joy there is at the camp. What’s unique about our camp is that it is run by college and high school students. We knew early on that they were capable of doing it and we also knew that they would be ideal role models. So, we just got out of their way and allowed them to spread their wings.”  

Rich’s next statement is nothing short of inspirational.  “We all have the gift of joy at birth, and we see that in abundance with young people. As we get older there are many things that can pull at that joy and if we are not careful it can slip through our fingers. When you come into our camp you see 85 staff members who love what they are doing and love being with the kids, that joy radiates with parents and campers”. 

As a way to put that joy into practice, St. John’s Summer Camp has been fundraising for Mary’s Meals for 3 years. Their efforts raised enough money to Sponsor a School every year and feed 4,078 children!  

“Last summer was rough because we were prohibited from doing the normal fundraising activities. We ended up falling into a goofy fundraiser, ‘Shave or Save 2020.’  The fundraiser was everything we’d hoped it would be and even more than we thought was possible.” The camp raised enough money in 10 days to sponsor two schools and feed 1,619 more children!  

The desire to care for the world’s most vulnerable children continues for St. John’s. “Mary’s Meals has become a focal point for our church community. Taking on this mission has opened our eyes to the needs of our children living in poverty, and helped our congregation, especially the youth, realize that they can make a difference. I hope other faith communities engage themselves in the beauty of the Mary’s Meals mission and reap the blessings that we have.” 

St. John's Summer Program is a Catholic Summer Camp located in Hollywood, MD whose mission statement “Our mission is twofold: first, to run a Catholic summer camp where children ages 4-14 can grow in their faith and love for Christ daily through the guidance of young Catholic instructors serving as role models; and second, to provide a Catholic community for high school and college instructors to help them grow in their faith and love for Christ through daily Mass, theology classes and Eucharistic Adoration.”