Hurricane Florence Recovery


(click on the images below to read the Hurricane Florence Recovery Letter)

Giving Options - Including One-Time Gifts and Opportunities To Give and Pledge Over 3 Years

1948 Society$5000 or more
Sail on Sailors: $2500 - $4999
Friends of Don Lee: $500 - $2499

Click Here To Make Your Donation

Please call our Director, Kate Metts, if you’d like to speak more about the recovery:
252.249.1106 ext. 23


I’ll Do It! Once upon a time, from 1984-1993, I was a camper at Camp Don Lee. For a period of time, from 1994-2001, I was on staff at Camp Don Lee. These days, however, I’m the proud parent of camper at Camp Don Lee.

To be sure, a lot has changed at camp over the last 30 years! For starters, there are a lot of new buildings. There is a new, amazing sailing center – complete with classrooms and a crow’s nest. There is an even newer, ‘new’ bathhouse – complete with a real roof, no less! There is a new pier, named in honor of camp’s long tenured director, The Reverend John Farmer. There is a community life center and a brand new building that houses the incredible Costal Communities program. And that’s not all… wait for it… there are even new cabins with bathrooms and HVAC! Wonders never cease! New programs, like Coast Runners, Advanced Sailing, and Marine Science have been added. New outposts for sailing trips have been secured. Archery has been added to the daily rotation of activities and spicy onion rings are now on the menu in the dining hall.

But that said, here’s what hasn’t changed at all… the swim test – treading water while singing ‘The Little Green Frog’ when you first arrive, worship in Vesper Dale over looking the Neuse, caper cheers, tacking drills, Home-In-The Woods, fried chicken on Friday nights, camp dances, hayrides, ferry rides, sailing adventures, and life together with 15 of your closest friends and 2 counselors, just to name a few.

From listening to my son recount his experience, you know what else hasn’t changed? The heart and soul of Camp Don Lee! It remains a place that God has blessed. It remains a place where children, youth, and people of all ages experience God’s love outdoors in ways they seemingly can’t indoors. It remains a place where campers learn independence, build confidence, learn to make new friends, give and receive forgiveness, and most importantly discover they are deeply loved by God always and forever, no matter what. Finally, if we are honest, it also has remained a place pretty much held together by green string and duct tape!


All of which means, camp did not fare very well during Hurricane Florence. Multiple buildings were destroyed, many others damaged, and the shoreline experienced significant erosion. It was and remains hard to see, however, the God that met me here, met you here, still meets my son here every summer, and the Don Lee spirit I learned as a camper assures me that with your help and mine, camp can be put back together again! Now is the time for us to step forward in faith to help turn this ship around to the Lord. If ever there was a time to shout – as I once did and as campers still do before capers (camp chores) are announced – ‘I’ll do it’! This is it! Please join me and my family in helping Camp Don Lee rebuild so that future generations – perhaps my grandchildren and yours – can experience this same, wonderful, incredible place God has blessed!

-The Rev. Ben Williams

To Live is to Love and to Learn. And to lead is to know when to not. We, Ward Sylvester and Frazer Cornette, began the four-week rigorous adventure of the Leadership In Training program.

Every individual that takes part in this process captures their own particular value and understanding of how to become the best of who they are as a leader. This program is like no other. It encompasses compassion, diligence, patience, understanding, and love, all of which help to comprise what strengthens each member throughout the memorable four weeks. Sometimes being a leader means putting your wants aside and figuring out what is best for the group as whole.

Within this program, we began to see that it is not always the first person who speaks or those who speak the loudest who are the best leaders, but those who speak up for others that cannot. We each had our own valuable attributes that when combined would make us stronger. The adventure of the LIT program is a life changing experience that pushes each individual to their best potential. This program helped us find more faith, confidence, and balance within ourselves. Those four weeks of our lives are a huge part of the young adults we are today.

Both of us were so moved by the LIT experience and the effects it had on our lives that we decided to embark on the journey again as LIT Coordinators in 2017. As a group, we realized that it would take a balance of commitment, adaptability, fun, and determination.

When times became difficult and challenges arose, part of what helped us grow as a group was coming together by filling our weaknesses with each others strengths. We loved, we encouraged, and we brought together 16 young strangers and helped to build them into one family.

-Ward Sylvester and Frazer Cornette

The Power of Camp is Truly Remarkable.
I have attended Camp Don Lee as a camper, LIT and staff member. I have such fond memories staying up all night giggling in my cabin, playing silly games, dancing on the black top and worshiping under the stars.

In midst of these fun-filled activities, I had no idea what God was planting within me. Camp Don Lee was a safe place to be myself, to talk about God and faith, and to grow spiritually. During the summer after my 7th grade year, I answered a call to ministry. I know what you’re thinking, a 12 year-old wanting to be a pastor?!?! But it’s true. I had been feeling a desire to become a pastor ever since I had taken confirmation class that spring, but I never voiced this calling to anyone. I doubted my calling. I was scared to voice my calling, I wondered if kids would tease me. I wondered if kids could even be called. I had only met one clergywomen at this point and wondered if women could even be preachers.

These faulty perceptions and worries were challenged when I arrived at Camp Don Lee that summer. I saw women preach, serve communion, pray and lead worship. I interacted with young teenagers who lead devotions, taught me about the Bible and about what faith meant to them. I was able to talk to my peers about God, faith and other normal teenage trials. Camp Don Lee provided me with a safe place to experience the Holy Spirit, free from the distractions of home, to truly hear what God was calling me to do. Following my two weeks at Camp that summer, I returned home to boldly announce my call to ministry and my hope of becoming a pastor. While not everyone took this dream seriously, I stayed steadfast in believing that God had a plan for my life. I returned to Camp year after year, each time strengthening the foundation of my faith. As an older camper, Don Lee let me help plan a worship service. As a staff member, I was given the opportunity to preach, lead morning watch and to read scripture in worship. Camp gave me a place where I could faithfully live into my calling without fear of bullying or ridicule from my peers. Camp Don Lee is not only the place where I heard God call me to lead the church, it is also the place that allowed me to put this call into action.


I am currently a 2nd year M.Div. student at Duke Divinity School and I am working to become an Ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church. I will be forever grateful for Camp Don Lee for giving me the courage, confidence, and leadership skills to pursue my call to ministry. The staff at Don Lee strive to model a loving Christian Community, that seeks to help every child, youth, and young adult to grow deeper in their relationship with Christ. In doing so, campers of all ages discover what God is calling them to do and find the bravery to fearlessly be themselves.

-Grayson Hicks

Photo of Katy Chadwick copy

Every Year My 5th Graders Experience the Field Trip of a Lifetime when we go to Camp Don Lee in Arapahoe, North Carolina.

Our students are exposed to hands-on learning to deepen their understanding of the science content that we’ve been learning in the classroom. Our kids love dissecting fish, learning about multicellular organisms, digging for insects, and learning about the Neuse River Basin and the impact of humans on our environment.

Additionally, students travel through phases of the water cycle while pretending to be a drop of water. Another favorite activity is when students use weather tools to create their own weather forecast. They morph into meteorologists and excitedly present their weather forecast to their peers!

I am grateful for the Camp Don Lee experience and I know it leaves a lasting impact on my students. Our kids talk about this field trip for the entire school year and they eagerly beg their parents to send them to summer camp so they can experience even more fun at Camp Don Lee.

Katy G. Chadwick
• 2018-2019 Craven County Schools Teacher of the Year
• 5th Grade Teacher, James W. Smith Elementary School

The Power of Retreats at Don Lee I remember the first time I came to Camp Don Lee - it was in November of my sixth-grade year. Local churches from all over came to Don Lee for a church retreat and my friend’s church in Greensboro had come once or twice before. That year my friend’s youth leader agreed that she could bring a friend, me. I remember that the drive was long (3.5 hours from Greensboro), and I remember going over the New Bern bridge and my confusion having no idea where we were headed. I remember waking up in one of the numbered cabins over by the “old” bathhouse that Saturday morning; walking out of the cabin and being awestruck by how close we were to the river’s edge. That weekend changed my life.

You see, my church didn’t have a contemporary worship service nor did it have a middle school youth ministry (or maybe I just didn’t know about it). But, attending a weekend retreat with my friend as a wide-eyed sixth grader was so exciting! And, looking back, if I had to pinpoint where I started taking my own faith seriously, I would point back to that retreat.

Singing “Prince of Peace”, “Light the fire” and 90’s favorite “Lions” (Oh, them lions they can eat my body, but they can’t …SLINKY… swallow my soul); watching older middle schoolers and high school students from other churches talk about their faith and how they read the bible; playing field games with more than 100 other Christians; well, it made an impression. It connected me to a youth ministry early in my middle school career by providing the space to build some really deep relationships with other students, but more importantly adult leaders who loved me and still love me to this day. It allowed me to experience worship in a really meaningful way, and showed me how joyful, fun and ALIVE the church could be.


I ended up working at Camp Don Lee during my college summers, working weekend retreats as well during the year. I saw people open up to each other and to God through things like fishing, canoeing in Gatlin creek, or singing “The Crazy Moose” song around a campfire.

Now that I work in youth ministry, the value of retreating away has stayed central to the ministry I get to be a part of. At each church that I have found myself in, I keep coming back to Don Lee. The hospitality is un-matched and those views of the Neuse River hold some of my most precious and formative holy moments. I am so thankful for the kingdom work that Don Lee gets to spark, fan, and set ablaze through their retreat ministry.

Genevieve (Genny) Nadler Brooks
•Camper 2000-2005
•Summer Staff 2006-2009
•LIT Coordinator 2008
•Full-Time Staff 2010-2013