Last Thursday evening was an event that will not soon be forgotten. Preparations were made, prayers were said, centerpieces were placed, and the smell of bacon wrapped cheesy jalapeno hors d'oeuvres filled the Floyd Norgaard Cultural Center in downtown Stanwood. I don't think I'm alone when I say that the Ladies Night Out Auction benefiting Special Friends Camp at Warm Beach Camp was wildly successful.
As all eyes were fixed on the video of a day at Special Friends Camp, a camp for adults with special needs, I felt a shift take place. Smiles widened, eyes became teary, and cheers came freely as campers whizzed by on the zip-line or tackled the climbing wall and rang the victory bell! No wheelchairs, leg braces, withered legs, or lack of sight held those determined souls on the ground!
Following the video, the 180 women in attendance were asked to consider sponsoring a day of camp for one camper. After all expenses had been calculated, the final cost of a day at Special Friends Camp was determined to be $92. As the last words of the request for sponsors were spoken, the white bidder numbers flew off tables in an overwhelming sea of YES! Like a mighty wave cresting on the ocean, a powerful movement of compassion, generosity, and tangible joy moved through the crowd and flooded my heart with humbling gratitude.
I watched as women held their bidder number in one hand and displayed how many days of camp they would like to sponsor, if more than one day, on the other hand. Two days, three days, four days, 10 days... even 24 days were sponsored by individual women moved to change lives through Special Friends Camp!
Even as I type the words now, I am in awe of the movement of the Lord in those moments. The love and desire to make a way for those who cannot make a way on their own was overwhelming.
At the final count, 152 days of camp were sponsored with over $33,000 raised overall! This far exceeded any expectations and the whoops and hollers of victory were proof! Every minute of Special Friends Camp is an opportunity for a miracle, a life to change, hope to be restored, and worth to be realized. I am forever changed by the outpouring of kindness I witnessed in my own little town. What an amazing special night!
Margaret Elaine Spears
Special Friends Camp Chaplain/Lead Staff
By Laurie Fertello, Special Friends Camp Director
Have you ever had someone declare, “You’ll be my friend for life!”? When it happens, it’s a very special day indeed!! And it happens frequently at Special Friends Camps for adults with disabilities at Warm Beach Camp!
One such relationship was shared between Paris, a buddy (volunteer), and Vivian, a camper. They became dear friends at Special Friends Camp and shared precious moments together. They were the best of friends...the “friends for life” kind. When Vivian passed away, Paris was heartbroken, as were everyone who knew Vivian.
When I think about their special connection, their special friendship, I’m reminded that this is what Special Friends Camp is all about. Loving as Jesus would, spending time together, and enjoying all the fun and fellowship camping has to offer.
Vivian found a friend for life in Paris. And Paris will tell you her friendship with Vivian was a tremendous blessing!
Special Friends Camp is a time of true wonder and excitement. As I watch campers arrive and step off the Dart Bus and out of the cars they are greeted by cheering staff and volunteers. I think to myself, “let the friendships begin”!
Staff and volunteers have endless opportunities to share the love of Jesus and relationships develop quickly. Many friendships reach beyond the boundaries of camp to include attending special events together like ball games, parties, church services and weddings. And for some, funerals.
Over 200 volunteer buddies are needed for Special Friends Camp each summer. Would you, or someone you know, be interested in volunteering? If so, go online to www.warmbeach.org/sfvolunteer or contact our Volunteer Coordinator, Faith Oates at 360-761-1267 or via e-mail.Add a comment
9 full time light hangers began setting up The Lights of Christmas after Labor Day
73 seasonal paid jobs were provided to the local community
18 lead decorators directed a decorating crew to transform 75 sleeping rooms and over 20 event areas into a Christmas wonderland
700 people donated 16,000 volunteer hours to the event
75 volunteers came on December 20th to clean up the grounds after a strong wind storm
74 entertainment groups performed on five stages throughout the event
3 engagement proposals (that we know of) occurred at The Lights of Christmas this year
$3,600 was collected for Kids 2 Camp scholarships through donation cans and the wishing well at the Festival
68,862 guests enjoyed the event in 2018
1737 people attended Dinner Theater/Sunday Dessert Matinee, with 14 nights of performances
540 rooms were booked for overnight stays
2,535 guest enjoyed a delicious breakfast after their overnight stay at The Lights of Christmas
Countless lives were touched by the Christ-centered hospitality of The Light of ChristmasAdd a comment
This past week I visited with two volunteers, both have driven courtesy carts for The Lights of Christmas Festival for many years.
The first volunteer told me of a grandmother arriving on the public bus with her two grandchildren on the last night of the event, just before 5:00pm. “I only have an hour!” she told the cart driver. “I promised them they could ride the train! Can you take us there?” The train wasn’t running yet, but the suggestion of pony rides brought delight, followed by Bruce the Spruce the talking Christmas tree, donuts and more. Each stop the driver would leave them, serve someone else and come back to take them to the next stop, culminating with the hoped for train ride on the Warm Beach Express before meeting the bus just in time. The grandmother was beyond grateful for this gift to her grandchildren.
The second volunteer cart driver told of a man escorting his elderly mother. “Could you drive her around to see the lights?” the man asked. “She can’t walk very well.” The elderly woman was filled with joy as they drove, admiring the lights and displays. When they were ready to leave, the son turned to the driver, “Thank you. My mom has been given three months to live and you just gave her the best Christmas gift of her life.” We both had tears in our eyes by the time he was done telling me the story, praising the Lord together for the opportunity to be His hands and feet to the thousands who come to The Lights of Christmas each year.
Volunteers - You make a difference in people’s lives! Whether it is driving a courtesy cart, parking cars, or cleaning the bathroom - what you do matters. Thank you for serving Jesus with us.
Charitable Gift Planner
Warm Beach Camp & Conference Center