What Camp Don Lee means to a few of our families:
“I cannot express just how much Camp Don Lee has meant to our daughter. She has grown spiritually and socially. The self-confidence she has gained through her weeks at camp brings joy to her family. She is already talking about next summer! Thanks for all you are doing for our children!”
“Because of the setting and the cultivation of exceptional people to care/teach/guide the campers, Don Lee has been a rich part of my child’s life for many summers. The most valuable part of the experience, however, is the growth that is nurtured between the campers, one that puts God’s love right in the middle. The relationships my children have forged at camp because of this mission are rare and immeasurable.”
“Our son LOVED his counselor! He felt like a part of his group and can’t wait to go back. As a mom, I loved the Bunk 1 pictures and getting little notes, it helped with my anxiety to see that he was clearly having a blast.”
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.