Celebrating 75 Years of Retreat and Growth

Mar 28, 2003 01:28 PM EST

RIDGECREST, N.C.— Camp Ridgecrest celebrates its 75th summer with an anniversary gathering of more than 200 alumni and friends, mid July.

"Camp Ridgecrest began operating in 1929 as a two-week trial session," camp director Ron Springs said. "It was so successful that they immediately began planning for the 1930 season. Many of our camp families have made Camp Ridgecrest a family tradition, with second and third generations attending presently."

Springs began working at the camp as a counselor 27 years ago. He led hundreds of boys throughout his stay, including the quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Brad Johnson.

"He was a 7-year-old in Cabin 1, where I was the counselor," Springs said. "It's great for me to see campers attending camp now whose fathers or mothers were campers at our camps when I first started here. We have even had campers whose grandparents were campers or on staff in the past."

Chris Shirley, associate pastor at Wedgwood Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, a former camper, staffer and associate director of the camp, notes the importance of the anniversary.

"I was at the 50th and 60th anniversary celebrations, and I remember just listening to all the memories and experiences others share," he said. "These folks were the doctors, lawyers, teachers, ministers and others who were shaping our generations. I remember thinking what an awesome privilege it was to be a part of a place where God was molding the lives of not only present generations, but those to come. I'm praying that God will allow me to be a part of the 100th celebration."

Trey Davis, a former camper and staffer, now attending Wake Forest Divinity School, describes the 75th anniversary as a "big deal."

"My grandfather was a camper there in the 1930s and '40s, and my father was a staffer in the '70s," he said. "It's the only place that each of the past three generations of my family has spent meaningful time. As I grow older and more removed from my parents, it's so reassuring to have things that we can share. Ridgecrest fits with who I am. It helps define me."

The camp, a counterpart to the sister camp, Camp Crestridge for girls, strive to provide youth with a safe and exciting atmosphere that is dedicated to Christ.

"Our goal is to show our campers that you can live a Christian life and have fun at the same time," Springs said. "Our staff members are Christian role models for the boys and girls that attend."

"One striking moment for me in the last few years was when a camper from the 1930s came up to camp to look around," he said. "He had not been to camp since then and shared with me how much camp had meant in his life.

"We went into the Lake Lodge, where all the camp pictures from the various years hang, and he found the one he was in," Springs continued. "After 60-plus years, he still remembered the name of his counselor. It was an amazing moment, and one that reminded me what an impression we make on these children, and what a tremendous responsibility we have to share Christ's love with each child that attends."

Springs views the Camp as a place to share the gospel in conjunction with the dedication to fun and games.

"Kids are rushed around all year long in today's world, and rarely have time to just be kids," he said. "Camp Ridgecrest and Crestridge [for girls] offer campers the opportunity to just have fun and be a kid, without the stresses of school, home and a busy schedule. While our program is structured and we have many activities going on, we feel we offer a non-stressful, fun, exciting atmosphere."

Approximately 1,200 youth attend the camp each year. The majority of the attendants are from out of state; 40 percent are from within Florida. Campers attend two- or four-week sessions and participate in a variety of activities, including horseback riding, archery, soccer, swimming, canoeing, weightlifting, rock climbing, mountain biking, basketball, softball and tennis.

By Pauline J.