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Traveling Day Camp Program

What do you get when you cross Vacation Bible School with summer camp? Central Virginia Presbyterians get the Camp Hanover Traveling Day Camp Program.

Among her innovations in camp leadership, Nancy Ferguson launched the day camp partnership 13 years ago with churches around the region, bringing the camping experience right to church campuses — whether they’re large churches or small, whether they’re located in the city, in the country, or in between.

Originally organized to introduce congregations to the value of outdoor ministry and to be a first step toward drawing children into residential camp, the day camp program blossomed into a major feature in the participating churches’ schedules and in the children’s lives.

Campers of 2nd through 5th grade participate in typical camp experiences such as joining small groups, having story time, making crafts, playing games, engaging in nature awareness experiences, and cooking out at least one of their meals during the week.

They do so for about one-fourth the price of residential camp.

To operate, Camp Hanover provides a director, plus one staff member per every seven-to-eight campers. They plan the activities and manage the registrations. The host churches recruit 10 to 30 campers, provide volunteers for some activities, prepare and serve snacks, and help with health screenings on the opening day.

Most of the groups take a field trip during the week. If not too far, they’ll go to Camp Hanover to enjoy all of its nature-based opportunities, or they will visit a local farm or go to a pond for fishing.

“Some churches have organized these camps as an outreach tool, an evangelistic tool,” says Bob Pryor, executive director of Camp Hanover. “Some who have had no children or youth, we’ve encouraged to look to grandchildren, to other youth in the population around the area to reach. It’s been fun to watch some of our churches do that.”

Ferguson got the idea for the program from Lutherans who had pioneered such a program. After leading this for 10 years, she handed the reins to Marliana Spence, who is preparing for her third summer’s program for 2011.

Pryor estimates that somewhere around a dozen other camps in the country are implementing similar programs.