Karianne Gwinn (seated, far right) started in the dining room and is now the Camp HOPE Director. Photo courtesy of Camp HOPE California.
Some of my very earliest memories of life were at Mount Hermon where my family attended the Insight for Living conferences when I was a wee babe. Mount Hermon has always been a place of peace and joy for me—from the quintessential smell to the light bursting through the Redwoods. In 2009 when my grandpa passed away, we attended his memorial service at Mount Hermon and the door opened for a life-changing experience as a summer staffer in the dining room serving conferees.
After having counseled at Ponderosa Lodge and then staff counseling at the conference center, I am still involved deeply in Mount Hermon’s ministry through Camp HOPE at Kidder Creek. Each camper comes with a Family Justice Center somewhere on the West Coast. Family Justice Centers provide services of all kinds to domestic violence survivors and their kids. All of our campers have been exposed to either domestic violence or child abuse and many have, unfortunately, experienced physical, emotional, and/or sexual abuse firsthand.
Continued from Staff Alumni Letter
Last year we started a special program at Kidder Creek called Camp HOPE. Camp HOPE is a values-based camp that focuses on character traits, positive self-talk, and experiential learning for kids who come from homes that have experienced family violence. For the past two summers I have had the privilege of serving as the Camp HOPE Director.
This most recent summer we focused on different phrases every day like, “I am becoming my best self” and “My future is brighter than my past.” Throughout the week, I regularly heard kids proclaiming those truths over themselves and their cabin mates. What a powerful thing! One of the most unique things about Camp HOPE is having secular non-profits paired with a faith-based camp. What a privilege to work alongside summer staffers who love Jesus deeply and show that love through their actions and the way they treat campers as well as the FJC site coordinators and Assistant Counselors.
Our campers often arrive carrying more pain than any person should ever have to experience. They are warriors. They are pillars of strength. They are resilient. They are soft hearts under the hardest of shells. They are kids. They are made in the image of God. Every time we see a child conquer a fear, believe in him or herself, or forgive an abuser, we are reminded all over again why we do the hard work of loving when it takes everything we have and speaking truth into the hearts of the campers. And we do it because it matters. It matters today and tomorrow. It matters in the context of eternity.