Grace UMC Equestrian Camp
Eleven years ago, God gave our pastor and members of the congregation at Mt. Zion United Methodist Church a vision to start an Equestrian Camp for children and youth ranging from the age of eight to seventeen years of age. It was understood that the camp would operate only with volunteers who were willing to sacrifice and give of their time for an entire week. The objective was for the campers to attend a camp where they will spend an entire week learning how to ride horses, but at the same time become involved and engaged in other social and educational activities.
For the past five years, the Equestrian Camp has been based at Grace United Methodist Church. It has become one of the most vibrant ministries of the church. Each summer, fifty young people come together for a once in a life time experience. Local cowboys and cowgirls spend an entire week each summer during July at the RR and BBB Farm teaching young people not only how to ride horses, but to appreciate and respect them. The RR & BBB Farm is located in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. It also provides for character building in these young persons also. In addition, it is an opportunity for young people to bond with others who they have never met before and to build self-esteem. Campers have attended the camp from at least seven states over the years. These cowboys and cowgirls freely bring their horses to the camp for the week and most of them take off from their jobs to be a part of this experience. The campers spend each night at Grace United Methodist Church and are transported to the farm each day by Spriggs Motor Coach. Thursday night, the campers sleep in tents on the farm. We believe this is a camp unlike any other operated by a United Methodist Church in the United States of America. It takes approximately 85 to 100 volunteers every year to operate the camp safely and efficiently. Every effort is made to ensure that the campers are safe and secure throughout the entire week. All volunteers have to complete and comply with our Safe Sanctuaries policies. Strict supervision is a must. Social and educational activities incorporated into the camp are bowling, skating, swimming, field trips, games, Colgate dental, etc. This year for the first time, the Prince George's County Special Operations Division, SWAT, Aviation, Explosive and Drug Detection K-9 Unit and Motor Cycle Unit provided demonstrations for the campers and volunteers. It was exciting to see the helicopter land on the farm. Another attraction was the Reptile Alive presentation that made available all sorts of reptiles.
The volunteers for the camp are phenomenal people who are interested in promoting a quality camp for young people. Our philosophy is that no one component or one person is more important than the other, for it takes each component and person to make the camp operate successfully. We know that our children would probably never have this opportunity if we did not provide it for them. Most of our volunteers are members of Grace United Methodist Church who give so much of themselves throughout the entire week. Our equine instructors, approximately 10 to 15 each year, are assigned to training pens that allow the campers to have hands on experiences with the horses. We are appreciative for the support we receive from the local non-profit equine organizations. All of our instructors have a passion and love for horses and children. Many of them have been a part of the camp since its inception 11 years ago.
Each year some of the campers mature into becoming junior counselors at the camp. There are many success stories about our junior counselors that space will not permit us to share. However, many of them have gone on to colleges and universities and return each year to assist us with the camp. Some have gotten married with families and still offer support to the camp. Some have joined the military and workforce, yet still find the time to assist during the summer. These are remarkable young people who have made us proud. We believe we made a difference in the lives of the junior counselors and all of our campers.
We are grateful for the worship component that has been added to the camp. On Tuesday and Wednesday night of the week, the campers are involved and engaged in worship in the sanctuary. The worship experience has permitted some of our campers to share a message to the other campers and to also provide an opportunity for campers to share their gifts and talents with each other. In the past, the services have incorporated hip-hop and enacted the Gospel through drama, as well as local youth liturgical dance, puppet and musical ministries.
The camp is open to all races and religions with great emphasis on being non-discriminatory. Every effort is made to appreciate and respect one another's religious beliefs.
The dates for the 2018 Summer Equestrian Camp are July 16 through July 20. If more information is needed, please feel free to call Grace UMC at 301-292-7818, Ms. Deedra Jones at 301-346-5325 or Pastor Robert E. Slade at 240-416-8541.