‘Rockstar’ Teens Shine and Serve at Camp

Posted on: Monday August 14, 2017

By: Christy Ragle

Brooklyn Bowen likes helping people, so when her church youth group planned a missions trip to Victory Lane Camp, she jumped at the opportunity. She’s already hoping to return to serve at a future camp. Brooklyn was one of 24 Teens In Mission (TIMS) serving at Victory Lane Camp during this year’s summer camp sessions. Each Victory Family had at least one assigned TIM who connected with the family and helped in many ways. “Everyone serving at camp thought the TIMs were rockstars,” noted Sierra Anderson, who coordinated the TIMs program as part of an internship with VLC. “Both the Serving Families and Victory Families told me that the TIMs were a huge help, and everyone was proud of them.” This year’s crew of TIMS included a church youth group and teens who were members of a Serving Family or Victory Family. The focus this year was to develop opportunities for teens to serve actively as leaders during camp. “Serving as a TIM requires dedication and boldness, but it is rewarding to learn more about Victory Families and to know that you enabled them to have fun in a new way,” Sierra shared. Several of the TIMs had prior experience working with people who have disabilities. Ethin Thacker’s little sister has autism, and he also helps coach a special needs basketball team. Savannah Webber was inspired to serve by her mom, whose job involves people who have disabilities. Gage Caruthers attended camp as part of a Victory Family, but served another family as a TIM. “It’s nice that the families all come together and make a community,” said Gage. “I’m thinking about a career in therapy, and the insight from therapists is helpful.” Audrey Upchurch also experienced camp first as part of a Victory Family. This year, she served as a TIM for Rebecca and her family. “Serving as a TIM has impacted me by making me have a better attitude about a lot of things,” she expressed. “It has also made me have a better look at what kids and families go through every day.” Jadyn Youngquist was instrumental in launching the TIMs program, and she watched the idea really come into fruition during this camp season. Jadyn is currently in the eighth grade and experienced a very special time at camp this year. “When I first moved here I met Emma, who has cerebral palsy, and we’ve been friends ever since,” Jadyn described. “I’ve been trying to get her family to come to camp, and this year she came!” Jadyn served as Emma’s TIM, along with two other TIMS. Jadyn’s favorite moment was watching Emma arrive at camp and seeing the Victory Lane Camp community welcoming her and her family. “It was cool to see all these people get to know her and love her the way I do, the way her family does,” she shared. Jadyn hopes to see the TIMs program continue to expand. She enjoys seeing the connections that teens make with Victory kids. “It’s important that we educate teens about children who have special needs and help teens come to the realization that these kids deserve all the love we can give.”

Read the full story

Victory Family Experiences New Friends and New Adventures at Camp

Posted on: Thursday July 27, 2017

By: Amber Estelle

  Taby Wise was terrified of the zipline at Bradford Woods this summer, but her son AJ was determined to try it. Fearlessly, AJ insisted that his family promise to take turns and all experience the zipline. As he was coming to the close of his adventure, AJ declared that it was “awesome” and quickly asked to go again. The Wise family has been a part of the VLC community for the last couple of years. This was their second time attending camp. “We were looking forward to camp again. AJ loves it because everyone includes him. They adapt the games so he can fit in. They make you feel really comfortable and welcome,” shared Taby. Even though AJ had been to camp before, he found new ways to move out of his comfort zone and really connect at camp. Taby explained, “This year, he was socializing. Some of the kids came to our cabin and played cards. It’s amazing to see him build relationships with other kids.” One of those relationships was with his friend, Simon. AJ said “I really liked hanging out with Simon and doing the zipline. That made me feel happy.” Watching her son stretch his limits and grow in community reminded Taby of how much VLC means to them. “You don’t always get the support you need for your family. It’s really nice to know that they’re there for you, and they’ll pray for you. It’s not just a camp to us, it’s family.”

Read the full story

A Heart for Serving: Sierra’s Story

Posted on: Thursday July 13, 2017

By: Amber Estelle

When Sierra Anderson’s step-brother suffered from limited mobility and other issues following a car accident, it created a hunger in her heart to help others. She started attending Life Pacific College in California with the plan to complete her Bachelor’s in Human Development and Psychology. “I was motivated by my experience caring for my step-brother,” Sierra shared. Working on her degree required Sierra to complete an internship experience to help her apply the skills she is learning in the classroom. She began looking for an opportunity to work with families impacted by special needs and to explore child education. “There’s a great need for care and service to children with special needs and their families,” she described. With her fiancé close by, and a connection through Foursquare pastor Natalie Werking, Sierra found her way to Victory Lane Camp. Sierra spent time at Bradford Woods observing the atmosphere of Victory Lane Camp and incorporating herself into the community. She took time to grow in her understanding of the TIMS, Teens in Mission, program. “My main goals are to become a working member of Victory Lane’s team and to help them execute their camps excellently. I’m planning to help them to develop their Teens in Mission to be functioning in a way that is sustainable for their growth,” she explained. “They have some high goals for how many people they want to be serving, so they plan to really grow their TIMs ministry.” After attending some of the monthly events this spring and experiencing the first camp of the summer, Sierra has already built relationships within the community with hopes to continue forming connections. She expressed, “I have been able to make connections with some of the families at VLC events, and am excited to meet and connect with even more at the next camp this summer.” She has already seen the impact of having teens involved with VLC during the first camp at Bradford Woods this summer. “The most impacting thing was watching the ways the teens stepped up and grew as leaders themselves,” Sierra noted. “They were willing to let their hearts show and that had such a transforming effect on the children, the camp atmosphere, and on me. It reminded me what was so important and beneficial about TIMS and really energized me to step into my role during the next camp session at Cornerstone.”

Read the full story

Three Amigos Connect at Camp

Posted on: Wednesday June 28, 2017

By: Christy Ragle

  The Three Amigos or The Three Stooges. Whatever the Victory Lane Camp community calls this group of three guys, they don’t seem to mind. They’re too busy enjoying a wonderful friendship. Delmar Smith, David Upchurch, and Greg Carey all met through Victory Lane Camp. As dads who have children with disabilities, they found they had a lot in common. The three began connecting on a deeper level during last year’s camp session at Cornerstone. But the friendship didn’t end when camp concluded. They visited one another and made a point to be at as many monthly Victory Lane Camp events as possible. “If I know they’re going to be there, it lifts my spirits. They are both great guys, and with both of them also having kids with special needs, they get it,” David Upchurch expressed. “They really understand in a way that others can’t.” Greg is considered the “Mo” of the group, referring to the classic Three Stooges. They refer to Delmar as the MacGyver because he is good at figuring things out, a skill that helped them outmaneuver an escape room during one of their outings. David is known for his outgoing personality and great heart.  “When the three of us get together, we revert back to our fun-loving childhood days. I can be myself and let loose,” Delmar shared. “With caring for a child with special needs, there is always something that needs to be done. We can watch over the kids together and be ourselves. We just click.” The trio’s bond was solidified at the Victory Lane Camp session at Bradford Woods in June. The three enjoy talking about life together and aren’t afraid to broach sensitive topics like religion and politics. “It’s cool, because we can just laugh. Laughter is very important,” David said. “We like to goof off and then we can be serious.” At the Victory Lane Camp pool party a few weeks after camp, the three amigos were together again, having a serious discussion about what faith means to them. Minutes later, they were laughing and talking about something silly. “That’s what makes our relationship just fun,” David continued. David, Greg, and Delmar plan to continue getting together throughout the year. Their wives also enjoy one another and make sure VLC events and casual outings are on the schedule. They are even planning to take a vacation together. “We have a lot of shared experiences with our children. All of us have a child on the spectrum, and we have learned quickly that milestones and expectations have completely changed. My other friends may not get it at all,” Greg shared. “It’s almost like family, maybe even better.”

Read the full story