VIPER — Despite some rainy weather last week, a camp meant to give troubled youth a helping hand was held for the fifth consecutive year at Twin Rocks Bible Camp on the Middle Fork of Maces Creek.
Project Hope’s Camp Promise, an organization formed to help at-risk male youth who have ended up in the juvenile court system or are economically disadvantaged, was created by Perry County District Judge Leigh Anne Stephens and Zach Sandlin, a juvenile parole officer for Perry County, along with the Kentucky State Police (KSP) in 2009. Five years later, Stephens said she is very proud to have been able to help so many of the youth in the area.
“It’s a real community effort. So many agencies and people and volunteers and churches come together. They donate their time, money, food, and it’s for a wonderful cause — these children who need to know that they’re important. I think they come out of the camp feeling that way,” Stephens said on the second day of camp.
With the rain bringing the activities inside, Stephens said she thought the weather would actually help the campers grow more as individuals and as a group.
“Sometimes that’s good too, because when you’re cooped up with people that’s when they get to talking more and express themselves a little more,” she said. “Sometimes when there’s so much going on you don’t get that camaraderie, relating to each other with stories and things.”
Former KSP Officer Chris Fugate, who is now the pastor of Gospel Light Baptist Church in Hazard and one of the leaders of Project Hope, has been with Camp Promise since its inception and said he can’t wait to continue what has become a tradition for many of the volunteers there.
“I’m thankful for the opportunity to meet some new boys from our community; it’s a great group of guys, a lot of potential,” he said. “I’m just thankful for our community and the people in our community that actually do something to reach out to help others that may not be as fortunate as we are.”
Fugate said the first year the camp had 19 campers for the week. This year, that number has more than doubled, and the 41 boys at camp this year have had chances to experience numerous community service jobs. Throughout the week, the boys got to meet with local volunteer fire departments, state police, and local celebrities like Tim Farmer, host of Kentucky Afield Television on KET.
“We encourage them to get involved in community service because the volunteer fire departments are such an asset for our county and they help a lot of people, so we encourage the boys when they get old enough to maybe look at doing that and to give back to the community,” Fugate added.
Fifteen-year-old Myles Hurst is a first-time camper this year, and said he plans to return for as many years as he can.
“It’s pretty fun, it’s tough but fun,” Hurst said. “I had already met friends just on the bus ride here.”
Fugate said the camp isn’t meant to be something to push the boys into something they wouldn’t be interested in just to help them; it’s meant to help them discover who they really are and what they’re really capable of.
“The way I say it, ‘Let life live them.’ Let them live life the way they choose to live it,” Fugate said.