Friday, January 11, 2013

Where the Heart Is

Everyone has something that they love—a cause that really pulls at their heart strings. Companies sponsor the charity whose cause their CEO loves, churches start charities for causes that their members love, and people invest their lives in causes that they love.

This post is to share with you about a cause that I love.

If you are connected with me on any form of social media, you probably already know from the multiple posts about my niece and nephews that I love kids. But what you may not know is that kids are also part of the cause that has captured my heart.

Six years ago, I was introduced to a non-profit that seeks to confront child abuse and bring hope into the lives of children who are victims of it. The organization partners with churches across the country and around the world to host week-long summer camps for children who are in the foster care system because they have suffered from some type of abuse. These kids come from home lives that I couldn't imagine in my worst nightmares and they have been exposed to more trauma than most of us will probably experience in a lifetime. What's even more heartbreaking is that their past makes them likely to fall into the same patterns of life as the homes they came from.

For six summers, I have worked at one of these camps and seen the difference that one week can make in the lives of children. As kids aged out of camp each year and new kids came in, I began wondering how many of them there were. So like any good American, I asked Google. In just a few short minutes I was able to find a report from the Department of Human Services detailing all of the child welfare statistics for the state. Although I can't find the specific year that I looked at back then, the current report brings the same heartache when I read the numbers. On average, the camp I attended reached approximately 55 kids every summer. While this number is on the high end in comparison to other camps across the country, it did nothing to prepare me for the numbers I saw on the 2012 Oklahoma DHS report.

I almost couldn't believe my eyes. Suddenly the immense need that Oklahoma has for programs to reach out to these children hit me like a ton of bricks. One camp wasn't enough. There had to be more that could be done to help the other 9,787 kids that we couldn't reach. It was at this moment that God and His immaculate timing stepped in.

Ever since I could drive, I have been babysitting for a family in Norman that have practically like family to me. Little did I know that they too shared the same desire to do more for these kids. During the years that they were involved with camp, they had a vision for a campground that was build solely to accommodate camps for at-risk kids so that more organizations across the state would have a place to host camps and programs. In a leap of faith, they took out a loan and purchased 60 acres of land in the metro area in hopes of one day making this vision a reality. This was the birth of Avalon Campground. Within a week, there was a donation made that paid off the loan completely. God's timing is perfect. For several years following the purchase, God closed the door on efforts to move forward with the campground. As discouraging as it was, they kept the faith that His timing was still best.

And of course, it was.

In a conversation between our families last year, the topic turned to what could be done to reach more at-risk children. As we shared or hearts, it became apparent that we all had the same passion for this cause. Prayer and faith soon opened the door for my family to get involved with the campground. Although there have been many bumps in the road along the way, we found the doors that God has opened for us and been able to move forward in the process of getting Avalon started. From the business plan to the website, God has given us exactly the tools we need at the moment that we need them and we are slowly, but surely, getting closer and closer to breaking ground.

So what's my part in all this?

Well, simply put, (or maybe not so simply) I am the social media manager/graphic designer/marketing coordinator/this-and-that organizer/fundraising idea generator. In short, I do whatever I can within my abilities to help with the process of moving Avalon closer to being able to build the campground.

The current goal (from my side of things, at least) is to raise awareness for Avalon so that people know the name, know our cause and know where we are in the process of making the campground a reality. This week, we launched our Facebook page, Twitter account  and our newest addition, a Pinterest page. If you are on any (or all) of these social media sites, please follow and like us and share our vision with your friends. God is faithful in providing everything we need in each step we take and we can't wait to see how He works in the coming months!

"I am not called to be successful, I am called to be faithful." -Mother Teresa