Everyone Loves Camp
By Victor Pinzonn –
A long-standing dream became reality as The Salvation Army Sierra del Mar Division celebrated the dedication of a new camp and conference center in Ramona, Calif.
Nearly 1,200 adults and children representing invited guests from throughout the division attended to celebrate the historic event, which established a beautiful 575 acre campground in San Diego County for the first time in 110 years.
The new campground will provide a full range of camping programs for underprivileged children, families, and senior citizens.
“Our camping and leadership programs will help children turn away from gangs and poor school performance in favor of teams, hard work and scholastic achievement,” declared Lt. Colonel Donald Sather, divisional commander, who is especially enthusiastic about the camp’s operating on a year-round basis.
Nestled in a picturesque mountain setting, the camp offers cabins, conference rooms and a wide selection of recreation activities, such as hiking, basketball, swimming, a wilderness camping area and leadership programs designed to prepare children for success in life.
The new facility will also serve as the home of the Sierra del Mar Division’s music camp program. “The enthusiasm and participation was terrific this summer as we conducted our music camp program at our new home for the first time,” said Don Read, divisional music director. “As our after school music programs expand with new children added every week, the opening of our new campground could not have come at a better time.”
Formerly operated by the First Presbyterian Church as a retreat center, The Salvation Army acquired the property after a long search and an investment of 2.3 million dollars. “We now have a facility that will impact favorably on future generations, that can be shared with the entire division and our community. The long range benefits of operating a camp in the Sierra del Mar Division are tremendous,” Sather said.
Highlighting the dedication ceremony were performances by the divisional band and the Westminster Choir of the First Presbyterian Church. A skydiving team consisting of three jumpers delighted the crowd with an impressive demonstration of presenting both The Salvation Army and American flags, marking the groundbreaking ceremony for the camp’s new baseball field.
Chief Secretary Colonel Dennis L. Phillips delivered the dedicatory address and emphasized the effectiveness of camping programs in improving the lives of children.
“We can make more progress with a child in one week at camp than we can during the rest of the year combined,” Phillips said. “That’s why this is so important. We work with kids sometimes one hour per week at age 5 or 6. At camp, we have them 24 hours a day for a week. I grew up in a town where half the kids went to prison and the other half went to Salvation Army programs. I’m a product of Salvation Army camps and I am so moved by the potential of this new facility,” he said.
Throughout the day, children from the division enjoyed outdoor games, pony rides, a miniature train, and a group of clowns providing face printing and balloon art. There was an abundance of delicious barbecued beef, and the camp’s giant size swimming pool offered welcome relief for kids eager to cool off from the day’s activities.
The acquisition of the new camp was also acknowledged in a letter from Governor Pete Wilson, and San Diego County Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Horn presented a proclamation to Sather declaring August 23,1997, as Salvation Army Camping Achievement Day.