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The Lights of Christmas turns Twenty!

The year was 1997 and a brand new event opened for the first time at Warm Beach Camp — The Lights of Christmas.

As December arrived, no one quite knew what to expect. The Camp had never done an event like this before. Would anyone come? The idea of a Christmas event at Warm Beach Camp was brand new to people. What was this “lights thing” that the Camp was doing? Boasting a half-million lights and open just 12 nights, the event drew 20,000 people that first year!

20thYearBanner1Now, 20 years later, the question isn’t will anyone come. The question always is, “How many people will attend?” Since The Lights of Christmas began, nearly one million people have attended! Today, this is the largest Christmas festival in the Pacific Northwest. And, for the fourth time, The Lights has been selected as one of the Top 100 Events (see page 38) in all of North America by the American Bus Association, the association of tour bus operators!

There are a few special features this year to help celebrate the 20th year. A new entrance archway with computer-controlled lighting animation will welcome guests. A new gift shop is opening this year in the Starry Night Coffee House to replace Harbor Lights Gifts. There is a new Gingerbread House that is a great backdrop for a photo of your family and friends. The décor is being updated in several locations, and don’t miss the 10-foot-tall elk standing on a hill!

This December, I hope you have an opportunity to come help us celebrate the birth of the Christ Child, and the 20th birthday of The Lights of Christmas.

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The Howells find Warm Beach Camp

By Jenny Howell

Howell Family BIt was three weeks ago that our family of seven arrived at Warm Beach Camp. With our future ministry unknown as we search for God’s direction, we have found a place of refuge, purpose, and encouragement. Our hearts are filled to the brim with a place to live, community who understands our pastoral season of transition, and an opportunity to serve the Camp and staff. Only God orchestrates this kind of goodness.

The seasons when we feel like all is spinning out of control, He really is doing His best work in us, isn’t He?

The sadness I felt about being alone for the holidays and without a home to celebrate in with family has been softened. Warm Beach welcomed us in with understanding, excitement and lots of work! Not only are we not alone for the holidays, but God saw fit to land us in a spot that celebrates with millions of lights and thousands of visitors. I’m so thankful He goes before us and gives us more than we could ever plan.

We had no idea The Lights of Christmas lit up Washington State until we arrived. What a beautiful blessing to the community. We love the anticipation that is growing around the Camp as the teams of light hangers work long days in the rain. Volunteers are setting the scenes in place and making all things beautiful for the guests.

It really is magical and hopeful just being here waiting for not only our next ministry assignment to come, but especially as we await the celebration of the birth of the Messiah. The God who sent our family here to fill our lives with hope this season is the same God who sees you and finds joy in meeting you where your deepest need is.

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Project Updates - November 2016

Here is the latest news on the Camp’s current projects:

  • CLChapelRenovationAThe new audio/visual systems have been installed in Cedar Lodge Chapel as a part of the refurbishment project currently underway. The new chairs have arrived. The rest of the work in the Chapel is on hold until after The Lights of Christmas. Work still needing to be done includes the new lighting, new texture/paint for the ceiling, and when it stops raining, a new roof on this wing of Cedar Lodge. Be sure to take a peek in the Chapel the next time you are on the grounds.

  • The renovation project to revitalize Cascadian Lodge is in the funding stage right now, raising the needed dollars through a room memorialization program. So far, 19 of the 30 rooms have been underwritten, leaving 11 more to be memorialized. The actual work on updating the sleeping rooms is scheduled to begin in the fall of 2017, once all the rooms have been funded. If you would like information about memorializing a room, please contact Nancy Nelson at the Camp.

  • The two small restrooms in The Pines were recently refurbished and will present a much more welcoming environment for the many guests of The Lights of Christmas who make The Pines their first stop when they arrive. Our thanks goes to the volunteers who completed this project ahead of schedule.

  • The parking across Marine Drive from the main Camp entrance has been expanded by 60 spaces and is ready to welcome guests arriving at The Lights of Christmas. The Camp is working hard to keep up with an ever-increasing need for parking spaces for this event.

  • Feasibility studies are underway to develop plans for a new multipurpose building to replace the Chinook Longhouse. The new year-around facility will include a multipurpose meeting room, dining area, A.D.A. restrooms, nurse’s station and sick room, office space, and sleeping quarters for Special Friends Camp leadership staff. Over the next five years, we hope to begin work on replacing the Longhouse, and complete four additional dorm cabins.

  • Plans are underway to replace the old “Big Toy” playground equipment that dates back to the 1980’s. Years of heavy use, the northwest weather, and changes in safety standards have all had a part in bringing the old equipment to the end of its useful life. The old equipment will be taken out early this next year, and as soon as the funds are raised, new commercial-grade playground equipment will be installed.

If you are interested in volunteering to help with any projects, whether you have a few hours or a few days, call Jessica Wilson at (360) 312-3417 or send her an email.

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Volunteers Needed for The Lights of Christmas

PonyVolunteer1During The Lights of Christmas, which opens December 1st, more than 100 volunteers are needed each of the 19 nights the event is open. We especially need more volunteers for the nights of December 20 through 23 and 26 through 28.

It takes people serving as parking attendants, costumed characters, greeters, ticket sellers, toy shop “elves,” hosts, security help, and more. The volunteers provide the smiles and warm hospitality that the event is best known for. Plus, the volunteers get to be a part of an amazing event. What better way to experience The Lights than being on the team that puts it on!

We also need about 150 volunteers to come to Thanksgiving Working Weekend on November 24 to 27 and help put on all the finishing touches. Then, after The Lights ends for the year, we need another 150 volunteers to help with Event Take-Down, to undecorate and put the stuff away. Take Down is December 29 and 30.

As a volunteer, you can share the hope and joy of the Christmas season with the thousands of people attending The Lights. What better gift could you give? We have a volunteer task that will work for you!

If you are interested in helping before, during, or after the event, you can get more information or sign-up at The Lights of Christmas website. Or, e-mail Jessica Wilson, Volunteer Coordinator. She can answer your questions, and help you get signed up. For the best chance of getting the volunteer assignment you want, sign up as soon as possible!

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Believe there is GOOD in the world

BelieveThereIsGoodIt is fresh perspective that is so important.

Do you see the potential in a child or just the problems with their behavior? Do you see the good when we develop deeper character by going through things that are not fair?  So many people have said of difficult times: “I would never want to go through that again, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything because of the good God has brought from it.”

In a time where there is so much focus on all that is not right, search for the good.  Lift up the good, better yet…

…be the GOOD in the world.  

That’s right, be the good. There is an old spiritual saying that says: God is good…all the time. The world seeks people who bring good to the world. Most of the time it is not headline news, but it is what lasts.  

With God’s help, be the good in this world today. Speak thoughtfully. Listen compassionately. Act responsibly. Solve a problem and meet a need. Give generously.

A camper at Warm Beach Special Friends Camp for people with developmental disabilities, volunteered to pray before a meal. As she began to pray, I was compelled to watch her because of the honest passion of her prayer. She prayed, “Dear God, thank you for this camp. Thank you for everyone who makes this camp possible. I love this camp because here I feel normal. Thank you for this camp. In Jesus name, Amen.”

I was weeping tears of joy over an honest prayer. I looked around the room at the awesome team of staff and volunteers. I think of every person who made the week possible. I am overwhelmed at the generosity of the people who give to make the camp possible.

In that moment I was seeing good in the world and I was with a group of people actually being the good in this world.

Giving God thanks for his goodness.  He is good… all the time.

Ed McDowell, Executive Director
Warm Beach Camp and Conference Center

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Project Updates - September 2016

Here is the latest news on the Camp’s current projects:

  • The refurbishment project in Cedar Lodge Chapel is nearing completion. The new snack bar has been completed. New chairs have been ordered. Work still in progress includes the new audio/visual systems, new lighting, and ceiling paint. This is the third and final project of the Embracing the Vision Campaign that provided funding for the new restrooms and the remodel work in the kitchen. We are grateful for the many people who gave through the Campaign to make all this work possible.

  • A new fireplace insert has been installed in Cascadian lobby. This is part of the renovation project to revitalize Cascadian Lodge. Fundraising through a room memorialization program is underway. This will allow us to significantly update the sleeping rooms in this lodge. Currently, 15 rooms have been memorialized, leaving 15 more to be underwritten. If you would like information about memorializing a room, please contact Nancy Nelson at the Camp.

  • Stables Project 2016New fireplace inserts have also been installed in both of the Olympic View Lodge meeting rooms. These provide a nice ambience and warmth to the rooms.

  • A lot of work has been done at the Stables this summer, and it continues into the fall. The new storage shed and corrals at the Stables are near completion, allowing for improved vaulting tack and horse feed storage, and improved winter horse feeding. A large section of gutters are being repaired or added to help with mud control in the rainy times of the year. New footing, a mix of sand and sawdust, has been added to the indoor riding arena to improve safety for the vaulters, and help protect the horses’ joints. Much of this work has been done by volunteers. Thank you, volunteers!

  • Work is starting on a project to add more parking spaces across Marine Drive for The Lights of Christmas. This will be the 20th year of The Lights, and it continues to grow each year. The Camp is working hard to keep up with an ever-increasing need for parking spaces for this event. It is wonderful that this event is reaching out to so many people! We want to be ready to serve those who come.

If you are interested in volunteering to help with any projects, whether you have a few hours or a few days, call Jessica Wilson at (360) 312-3417 or contact her by email.

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Teen discovers it isn't just about getting volunteer hours

AidanPhoto2Little did Aidan Espinosa, age 15, realize that his life was about to change when he stepped into the Special Friends volunteer training session this past summer to help with the camps for adults with special needs. Originally, Aidan had signed on in order to fulfill his volunteer hours requirement for high school graduation. In the process of becoming a buddy for a Special Friends camper, he not only found a safe place to belong himself, but his world perspective was expanded.

Even though Aidan was a bit nervous at first, he realized it would be an awesome week when he saw the first special friend get out of the car and run through the “welcome tunnel” of cheering staff. Aidan, better known as “T-Shirt” to the campers, shared, “Part way through, it wasn’t about getting volunteer hours anymore; it was about the experience with the Special Friends. By day three, I knew I needed to come back!”

He went on to expound, “I was accepted by the staff the minute I walked through that door for training. When in life can you be that vulnerable and transparent with others?”

Aidan’s mom, Terra, was a bit nervous as well. After a phone call midway through camp from her son, she was really glad that he was having this experience at such a young age. As a matter of fact, together they decided to cancel Aidan’s own week as a camper at W-Bar-B Ranch so he could return a second week to volunteer at Special Friends Camp.

“All in all,” Terra exclaimed, “I was totally inspired, and I may go and volunteer myself!”

This handsome young man is Vice President of his Sophomore Class at Arlington High School and on the varsity football team. In between football workouts and the latest musical production practices, Aidan is challenging others to return with him to volunteer at Special Friends Camp next summer.

And there’s already life-changing ripple effects from being a buddy. Aidan claims, “I will be more engaging with the special needs students at my school.”

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The K2C Benefit Auction -- Amazing!

K2C Auction Silent

The 17th annual Kids 2 Camp Benefit Auction was held on Saturday, August 27. The bidding was brisk with more than 300 items going to the highest bidders. When the dust settled, more than $141,000 was raised for the Kids 2 Camp Fund!

By the end of this year, we are projecting that over $202,000 will have been given out in scholarships, helping bring more than 1,700 campers to Warm Beach Camo. We are committed to not turning any child away from camp, but this requires funds for scholarships to make that possible. Each year, many people help provide the financial resources so this can happen.

We are extremely grateful to each of our auction donors who gave items to be placed in the auctions. We also want to thank all of the very generous bidders who came to the event.

More than the money raised, the success of this event is measured in the lives of the kids who will get to go to camp. Mark your calendar now for the next Kids 2 Camp Benefit Auction on Saturday, August 26, 2017!

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Come volunteer during The Lights of Christmas' 20th year!

LOC Vol Elfland 1This year, The Lights of Christmas is celebrating its 20th year! There will be lots of celebration and plenty of fun. While the event doesn’t open till December 1st, the crew that hangs all those lights is already hard at work. It takes about three months to get the Christmas lights in place! An event like this doesn’t just happen by itself. It takes lots of planning and a lot of help to make it all come together!

During October and November, all the effort is in the preparations. Decorations will be cleaned up and painted, light displays will be assembled, and the volunteers needed to staff the event will be recruited. If you are interested in helping make The Lights of Christmas happen, there are lots of ways you can pitch in.

During Thanksgiving Working Weekend over 100 volunteers come together for one final push to get ready for The Lights. This event will take place November 24th to 27th. Join the crew of volunteers for an extreme makeover weekend as we transform the grounds into a Christmas wonderland.

During The Lights of Christmas, there is no lack of things to do on the 19 nights we are open. More than 100 volunteers per night power the event. As you can imagine, there are a wide variety of jobs: indoor hosting, parking attendants, pony ride attendants, train attendants, and much more. Volunteering during The Lights gives you the opportunity to get a glimpse behind the scenes to see how this event happens.

The final, critical need for help happens after the event, when it is time to take things down and put them away. Take Down happens on December 29th and 30th. If enough people get involved in this process, everything gets done over a couple of days. If there are not enough volunteers for Take Down, it will take much longer to get the decorations put away.

Are you interested in helping with any part of The Lights this year? To register, or for more information about the above mentioned events, you can visit our volunteer webpage or call Jessica Wilson at either (360) 312-3417 or 1-800-228-6724, ext. 2276.

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Life isn't fair, but it can still be good

I listened as he unpacked events in his life that were not fair. I wanted to take care of it for him, but this was his life, not mine. I was here to walk with him through a disappointment brought on him by others.

After taking some time to think and pray about it, we went to my favorite place of perspective, the campfire, and I spoke words of blessing and encouragement into his life. We reminded each other that it is not the unfairness of life that defines us. What we do and how we live in response to unfairness is where character and greatness resides.

There was nothing fair about the cross of Jesus. Yet, I have a life of eternal good in front of me because of all that unfairness. What is even more amazing, is that Jesus declared going through this unfairness as the Father’s will.

Jesus’ brother, James, writes to followers of Jesus in Jerusalem, “…when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” (James 1:2-4, NLT)

It is a given that life is unfair. There is something so much greater than the unfairness of the moment.  There is a powerful good that rises and produces life in me in no other way. It was as if through Jesus, God the Father was saying to all the unfairness of all time. “Bring it on. Give me the death blow. There is a deeper good, and not even death can stop it!”

I watched the young man rise up from the unfairness and choose to let the greatness of his God-given character rise and grow. 

Life is unfair but, thanks to God, it can still be good!!!

Ed McDowell, Executive Director
Warm Beach Camp and Conference Center

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We are all in

Andrew Michele Ed Aug2016Responding to Vision matters. I will never forget the first meeting with Andrew and Michele. It was a simple vision that would require collaboration and commitment. I had clear conviction and desire from God to see a family camp for foster and adoptive families. Michele and Andrew have been living out a commitment to the health of foster and adoptive families through the Refresh Conference, Harvest Hands Alliance, The Permanence Project, Overlake Christian Church, and being adoptive parents themselves.

We met, shared the vision, and the response was immediate. “We are all in.”  

Three and a half years later, more than 400 attended the third “Refreshed Families” foster and adoptive Family Camp at Warm Beach Camp in Stanwood, WA. Volunteers and staff serve to make the event possible. Donors give campership money to help families experience a much needed win in their lives.

Michele, Andrew and I met again to share vision about the future. Every foster and adoptive family needs a win. We looked at how we could improve the Refreshed Families camp to support even more people every year. We committed all to God as we look forward to next year.

To all who have responded to this vision – thank you.  

Ed McDowell, Executive Director
Warm Beach Camp and Conference Center

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