Children, many of whom are in foster care, attend Camp Happy Days at Shocco Springs.
Photo courtesy of Laurie Mullinax

Camp Happy Days celebrates 36 years of bringing smiles to children in foster care

About 100 campers gathered July 14–17 at Shocco Springs for Camp Happy Days, a free overnight camp for kids 9–13 years old who have had some involvement in the past or present with DHR.

Thirty-six years ago, representatives of the Clarence Horne Estate approached Shocco’s Director, the late George Ricker, asking to join with Shocco Springs in providing a Christian camp experience for children who would not otherwise have that opportunity.

Originally, Horne’s legacy gift through The Baptist Foundation of Alabama was a parcel of property upon which he wished to establish and maintain a boys’ camp in memory and honor of his father, John E. Horne.

After obtaining legal clarification, the TBFA was allowed to sell the property and use the funds in ways that honored Mr. Horne’s original intentions. The resulting partnership is Camp Happy Days, an annual camp for foster children and their adopted, foster and biological siblings, primarily funded by the Horne Estate and facilitated by Shocco Springs staff and volunteers from various churches.

In the beginning, the camp attendees were recruited from the local communities, but eventually the Alabama Department of Human Resources became the main source of camper prospects.

Adapting to needs

Through the years, the camp has adapted to the times and the changing needs of the kids. But what has remained the same is that the kids have fun, learn about Jesus Christ and are lovingly cared for by trained staff and volunteers.

Shocco’s Blaire Butler, director of CHD, leads the planning and facilitating of the event. “This is a beautiful picture of the Church coming together to be the hands and feet of Christ to minister to these kids,” she says, “and I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve in this way.”

Scott Prater has served as camp pastor for well over 20 years and brings staff and youth volunteers from his church, FBC Jacksonville/Eagle Point, to help. This church also graciously makes sure every camper receives a Bible.

Don Scrivener brings a student group from Denman Avenue Baptist Church in Lufkin, Texas, each year. In addition to working at the camp, they donate water bottles and drawstring backpacks for each camper.

While on campus, the kids experience a wilderness hike and rock climbing, water field games, mini golf, basketball, Aqua Park/Wet Willie Slide, pool & boats, high and low ropes courses, Bazooka Ball, Gaga Ball, and arts and crafts. Each camp activity is designed to give camp counselors positive interaction with campers and opportunities to point the children to Jesus.

Every year there are numerous children who come to know the Lord as Savior.

‘Worthy and deserving’

Tara Stracener, former Shocco staff and CHD volunteer, remarked “God is saving precious children who are carrying more weight than their shoulders and hearts should ever have to bear. They are finding out that God loves them and that they are worthy and deserving of good things.”

There is intentionally little talk about DHR and the difficult situations the children have experienced. Instead, the campers are immersed in fun, exciting camp activities that will form happy memories and open their hearts to learning about the love of God.

Volunteer Alyssa Prater Cochran said, “We do this for the 12-year old that finally gets to relax and enjoy herself for a few days because when she is back home, she lies awake, scared, wondering what’s next. We do this for the brother and sister that are separated in foster care and their only chance to see each other is at camp for a few days. We do it for the kids that feel alone, unloved, unwanted and unseen.”

EDITOR’S NOTE — This story was written by Laurie Mullinax.