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Rangers commit to lead others

June 10, 2014

By Jim Edminson

The Rangers muster taking their places on three logs. This is the oldest group of campers at Cameron Boys Camp – ages range from 14 to 17. The 902-acre wooded camp in Moore County has seen hundreds of boys like these come through the program.

“Alright, let’s talk about where you guys think we are as a group,” Chief Tyler says. Chiefs are counselors who live with the campers at their campsites serving as mentors and teachers.

There’s a buzz before one voice rises above the others: “We want to be the leader group.”

In unison, the others nod in agreement. The group aspires to set the example for all the other campers in the Frontiersmen and Trailblazer groups. It’s a bold statement considering where these boys have been over the last months. There had been no camaraderie. They were all “doing their own thing.”

The boys began talking about how things changed in January and how they have a new focus – a focus on each other and helping each other succeed.

“When you begin your day ready to help each other out,” Wes says, “the day is better. You begin your day with a humble spirit and you feel more energized.”

Wes is one of the Rangers who has stepped up to lead his group. “You’ve got to be ready to move when others are still standing around. Somebody has to say, ‘Come on, let’s get this done’ or ‘Hey, how can we fix this?’”

The group begins to talk about how they have all changed their focus away from themselves and, instead, are focusing on each other as a group.

“You’ll struggle out here if all you are worrying about is yourself,” Wes says. “We are out here to help ourselves, but the only way we can truly help ourselves is to begin helping each other.” Wes’s fellow Ranger and friend Thomas says attitude is everything. “You’ve got to wake up and be ready to get into the day. When you realize the other guys are depending on you, it’s a good place.”

“You all have grown a lot,” Chief Josh says, “You came back in January ready to commit to Camp. You’re more flexible and you are paying attention to the needs of each other. You’re doing great.”

Placing a priority on the group is key to the boys reaching their goals. Everyday the campers do things together. Each activity is hands-on. The group plans and builds the tents at their campsite. They add the numbers to budget and plan meals they eat as a group. Trips down rivers and hikes along long trails are researched, planned and budgeted together. Fishing, playing games and performing skits and singing are all done as a group.

Learning to be a group does more than build camaraderie; it fosters trust.

“We can be ourselves around each other,” Thomas says. “You don’t have to put on a front. We are all in this together. You have to trust each other to begin to deal with your own issues. These guys are my best friends.”

Part of working on big problems is getting them out. Special planned times are taken in the day to discuss anything on the boys’ minds. And when the need arises, the group will spontaneously stop what they are doing to deal with anything that may come up in the group or that an individual camper may be feeling.

Wes has been at Camp for 11 months. Anger issues and bad relationships pulled him down. “I would get mad and just lash out. I would rather fight than talk about things. Now, I’m learning ways to cool off. I’m learning how I can talk things out with my chiefs and the other guys.”

Wes’s mom is thankful for the changes. Where the two spent most of the time at odds, Wes can share his thoughts and needs. “I’m listening now. Before, I had shut my mom and everyone else out. I’m respecting her – learning to respect authority goes a long way.”

Fifteen-year-old Wes says he has grown in his relationship with God. “It was hard for me to see God in my life before coming to Camp, but now I can see God making Himself known to me in my life. I’m learning that God is real. It’s cool.”

Sixteen-year-old Thomas will be going home near the end of summer. He is looking forward to playing football again in the fall. Thomas was facing some serious legal problems. Bad decisions had put him with a bad crowd and in a bad place.

“It wasn’t easy at first,” Thomas says, “I wanted to go home and I refused to commit to making Camp work. But one day things seemed to snap into place. I realized that Camp was going to be what I made of it. I began to try and put forth the effort. It’s made all the difference.”

Thomas, like Wes, is helping the Rangers to meet their goal to become the lead group. “I’ve seen it work. I’ve been here and I can help others who are struggling to go for it.”

Learn more about Cameron Boys Camp at www.cameronboyscamp.org.

You can help make hope possible for residents like Wes and Thomas by making a gift to Baptist Children's Homes. Please give online at www.bchfamily.org/givenow to help immediately.