During the months of June and July, Mountain T.O.P. provides a place for children and youth from Grundy County to connect with youth and adults from churches across the country. This year’s theme is focused on how we are all made in God’s image and made to care for our neighbors, community, and ourselves. Throughout the week, groups participate in activities that reinforce the good things going on in our area. Each Day Camp culminates with Celebration Day on Friday, where friends and families are invited to Camp Cumberland Pines to help commemorate the week and to get a first-hand picture of what their children are involved in.
In the first three weeks of June, 125 local young people have participated in the various Day Camp programs. Close to 650 lunches have been provided. Through partnerships, Mountain T.O.P. has been able to utilize local artists, teachers, organizations, and leaders to share their gifts and talents with the groups.
One of the daily themes of Day Camp is to grow imagination. Mountain T.O.P. does this through various activities, including a visit the University of the South, where groups participate in a scavenger hunt to help introduce them to interesting things on the campus. After having lunch, the students take part in a reading and literacy exercise.
“Our goal this summer, even more so than in the past, is to connect our Day Camp activities to initiatives already going on in the county so that we can reinforce what kids are exposed to,” says Julie Keel, Mountain T.O.P.’s Associate Executive Director. “We know that reading is a focus of our school system and that some schools this summer had a reading camp. By itself, this one reading activity at Mountain T.O.P. probably won’t keep a child from falling behind in school. However, it could strengthen what a child is already learning at school or at home. Mountain T.O.P. wants simply to be an extra support to families and children, and this shows how we can work together to help make a bigger impact.”
Austin Gunter, Americorps VISTA and Grundy County native, says, “When I think about Day Camp, I think about how hard the staff works to create such an awesome experience. As a former day camper, it’s been really eye opening to see all that goes into a week, a week that had such an impact on my childhood every summer.”
The overall goal of Mountain T.O.P.’s Day Camp programs is to increase social connectedness through caring about the stories of one’s self, community, place, and God. In one of the art workshops, local teens learn painting skills along with self confidence. Workshop leaders witnessed teens tapping into a creative side that they might not know existed.
Anna Schmidt, teacher and church music director from Wisconsin, says, “Talk about an amazing week. I go each year to work with the youth in Grundy County, Tennessee, in hopes of inspiring, uplifting, and encouraging them through Christ, and every year, the kids do the same for ME. I feel INSPIRED to be a better person and Christian in my faith, I feel UPLIFTED and closer to God, and am ENCOURAGED by the kids. We are beautifully and wonderfully made.”
Mountain T.O.P. Day Camps for children ages 6-11 years old will be held two more weeks in July, 11 – 15h, and July 18-22. Cost is $25 per child. To sign up, please contact the Mountain T.O.P. office at 931-692-3999.