Everyone has a purpose and can accomplish amazing things. That is something that Pathfinders Youth Camp is trying to instill in the youth of the area.
“Everything that we are doing from swimming to marksmanship to rock climbing, we're trying to help them overcome fear and trying to help them overcome those things that hold them back,” said camp director and founder Nick Adams.
“Fear paralyzes people so they aren't really able to be effective to accomplish their destiny - because fear cripples them and keeps them from taking the steps they otherwise might take.”
Adams is passionate about working with students and is especially concerned about at-risk and underprivileged kids. As a teen, his parents divorced and he teetered on the edge of being an at-risk kid himself.
“Interestingly, as the founder and director of Pathfinders, I never went to camp as a kid,” Adams said. “One of the reasons I am willing to work hard and exert lots of energy to dig this organization out of the ground is because of the life change I see in students year after year.
“I can’t help but think how much I would have benefited from camp if I had been given that opportunity, and I want to do all I can to provide that chance to as many students as I can,” he said.
Adams has spent his last entire adult life helping kids find meaning in life through a relationship with God and to overcome the things that destroy their lives, such as fear, addictions and hatred.
From experience, Adams feels that a camp is the best way for kids to escape the expectations of family and friends and to take the time to truly find themselves.
“You put them in an environment where they can be safe - emotionally and physically - and you challenge them to do things that they thought they could never do and they just find themselves in a really amazing way,” he said.
Pathfinders, which gets its name from helping kids to find their path, is located just five miles from I-81 and I-26. There are multiple camps that take place on the 72-acre compound during the summer months.
A residential camp is offered Monday morning through Saturday morning starting June 16. There, kids are able to do everything from chapel services, archery, marksmanship, paintball, a high and low ropes course, obstacle course, and mud pit. There's also a pond where they are able to swim. Rising sixth-graders to high school seniors are welcomed.
For the younger kids, rising first-graders to sixth-graders, there is a day camp that is available.
“Our focus is to get kids outside and get them connected with each other. Our mission is to help empower kids to discover and fulfill their God-given destiny,” Adams said. “Part of that is to help them discover their strengths and weaknesses and then to help them grow in the things that we consider life skills.”
Some of those life skills that they herald are teamwork and leadership.
“Although very valid life skills are writing checks and balancing your checkbook,” Adams said, “we feel life skills are personal relationships and how to resolve conflict, and how to work with others and have influence.”
The non-profit organization was founded 10 years ago when the group would take kids into the mountain trails, and go backpacking and hiking.
“When we started we had really absolutely nothing," Adams said. “There were three guys that had a vision to help kids. So we formed the organization and started taking kids backpacking.”
Eight years ago, the camp moved to its current location. They had their first camp of a little over 20 kids in the summer of 2007. Since then, they have touched the lives of over 600 kids a year.
Many of the kids that come through the camp are underprivileged. Twenty-five percent of the campers that come through are sponsored with scholarships that are contributed to the camp.
The bunkhouse for the campers is set inside a 100-year old milking barn that has been completely restored. The barn is separated into two dormitories and has three-level bunk beds inside.
Adams’ family has a background with the land, but it isn't what one might think. He purchased the land about eight years ago with the intentions of turning it into the camp, but his grandparents had seen the land before as sharecroppers.
“My father milked cows as a small boy in the barn I turned into a bunkhouse,” Adams said.
But the camp land isn't only limited for kids use. They also open it for corporate retreats and teambuilding. They also make the land available for people wanting to hike. As long as Adams knows who's on the land, anyone is welcome to come.
Pathfinders is always looking for donations of time and money. Anyone that might be interested in becoming a counselor during the summer should make plans to attend a special meeting on April 12 at the camp. To learn more, visit the website at pathfindersonline.com.