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Campers say 'thank you'

Posted: August 16 2019 at 11:01 PM
Author: Anne Marie Gerhardt

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Children from both the Chicago Northwestern and Chicago Southern Districts enjoy outdoor fun activities for a combined week-long camp made possible through donations from the Bishop’s Appeal offering.

For one week in August, more than 60 children from the city could just be kids and enjoy the great outdoors at one of NIC’s two camps. The campers from 14 churches in the Chicago Southern and Chicago Northwestern Districts took part in the Chicago Metro Camp at Camp Reynoldswood in Dixon, Ill. This week of fun was made possible in part thanks to the generosity from all the churches and individuals who donated to the 2019 Bishop’s Appeal offering at the Annual Conference in June. 

“Without the Bishop’s Appeal, this group of children and adult chaperones would not have been able to attend,” said the Rev. Jacques Conway, Chicago Southern District Superintendent. “Financially, the costs are more than any of these families would be able to set aside.” 

The Bishop’s Appeal offering of more than $53,000 for the NIC’s Outdoor and Retreat Ministries (ORM), which operates camps in Dixon and Williams Bay, Wis., along with other church donations, covered 90 percent of the cost for the camp. 

Each year Bishop Sally Dyck designates a ministry for the Northern Illinois Annual Conference’s special offering. ORM planned to use this year’s donations to expand the urban summer week-long program like the Chicago Metro Camp and to develop more opportunities for children and youth who might not be able to afford to attend camp. 

Chicago Northwestern District Superintendent Brittany Isaac said the offering gave that opportunity to many of the youth from her District’s churches. “Camp is a time to see God and community in new ways,” said Isaac. “I’m so grateful for all those that contributed to the Bishop’s Appeal so that our young people in the city get to have a life-changing experience with our camping ministry.” 

The youth spent the week at Reyoldswood playing games, swimming, making arts and crafts, eating three nutritious meals a day – which is not always the case for some of the families – making new friends, taking part in Bible studies, star-gazing, sitting by the campfire, and enjoying many more fun activities. 

“The youth had a wonderful time,” said Conway. “They kept asking me if they could stay longer.” 

ORM’s Director Jeff Casey says they are overwhelmed by the outpouring of generosity from the Bishop’s Appeal. 

“The money donated is allowing us to do new activities, focus on recruiting new children and families, and work with new churches and startups through both of our sites,” said Casey. “We can’t thank all those who donated enough. You rejuvenated us and all our staff and we are all excited as well as surprised by the generosity. We appreciate you so much.” 

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Counselor and camp co-leader Kelly Pringle from First UMC in Downers Grove helps campers during arts and crafts at Wesley Woods.

“Outdoor ministry matters,” said Becky Boggs, ORM’s office administrator. “There are times in both kids and adults lives that you just need to go outside the church and this is one of those places where people can come to experience God’s love and grace. It’s through generous gifts like the Bishop’s Appeal that we are able to continue this ministry and we thank you.” 

College student Kelly Pringle from First UMC in Downers Grove spent many summers attending camp at Wesley Woods on the shores of Geneva Lake as a youth leaving an indelible mark on her. She’s been a counselor and co-leader there the last four years and knows the difference camp makes in the children’s lives. “I feel so grateful for everyone that has supported us and makes these camps happen," she said. "It makes all the kids really happy and it changes their lives.” 

Besides the fun activities, the youth at camp often find a closer relationship with God. “We talk about a relationship with Jesus and the Holy Spirit,” said Casey. “The back of our staff shirts says ‘preach the Gospel always, if necessary use words’. We try and communicate with the kids that we can be witnesses through our actions and how we live our lives; words are not always necessary to invite people in.” 

ORM is already making plans to reach more children and families in the year ahead with a new Aurora District camp this winter at Wesley Woods. Casey also hopes to expand the metro camp to the Rockford District next summer. Lots of exciting things are happening at both Reynoldswood and Wesley Woods! If you or your church would like to get involved, email Jeff Casey at, 262-245-6631, or visit

►Watch a video 'thank you' below

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