For years I have heard about Camp Gilead but I never really knew what it was or where it was located.
My kids and I recently had the opportunity to visit the camp near Carnation. It is a visit we will never forget. Kimberly Mallory, the program director, welcomed us with open arms. We were also warmly greeted by four of her six children. Kimberly has “five little cowboys” and “one little cowgirl” – Josiah, 10; Luke, 8; Noah, 7; Reuben, 5; Judah, 3; Laura, 1½. Kimberly also let us know that she is pregnant and due in September.
Kimberly has been the program director since 1998 but worked at the camp long before she became the program director. Her husband Josh also works for Camp Gilead and is in charge of all the maintenance for the camp.
The Mallorys’ home is located right in the middle of the camp, which has 26 acres. Also living on the property is Jack Moyer and his wife Sara. Jack is the camp director and his wife does the camp registration. Their kids are much older than Josh and Kimberly’s but they also have five boys and one girl.
I was surprised to learn that Camp Gilead is open year round. There is so much to do at the camp. There is dirt boarding, canoeing, gutter ball (a camp favorite), camp fires, chapel, a giant slide, miniature golf, swimming pool, skate park, basketball, archery and bb guns and canoeing.
One of my favorite things at Camp Gilead is the working train. You can take train rides around the pond. The track is nestled at the bottom of a hill, with the miniature golf course built on the side of the hill overlooking the train. Kimberly is not sure where the train originally came from but it has been a part of Camp Gilead since the sixties.
At the end of our tour, Kimberly took me into her office. Her walls are covered with pictures of past campers and counselors. It is a bit overwhelming, knowing just how many kids the camp has had an impact on.
As Kimberly gazed at the pictures you could see the impact the kids and her staff have had on her as well. There is a special place on top of her file cabinet that is reserved for just a couple of pictures. They are pictures of past staffers who have died. One of them is Taryn Kelly, who died in 1999. After her death, her parents started the Memorial Scholarship Fund at Camp Gilead, in her honor.
Every year, the need for scholarships has grown, especially now with the slow economy. Last year Camp Gilead had about 1,000 youth and family campers; 125 of those youth campers benefited from the Memorial Scholarship Fund.
Every year they increase the number of scholarships they give out. Over the past 13 years, hundreds of families have benefited from their scholarship program. You can learn more about the scholarship program at www.campgilead.org.
Once you are on the site, click on Capital Campaign, and then click on Memorials.
Memorial Day, May 28th, is the Camp Gilead 2nd annual River Run 5K. This is Camp Gilead’s biggest event which raises money for scholarships. The cost to participate is $25 if you register before May 22nd. After that, it’s $30. This price includes a pancake breakfast afterwards. You can register online at www.campgilead.org/riverrun5k. There is also a video about the run on their website.
Camp Gilead just got a new $500,000 water system, which took ten years to save for. The next big expense is a new $250,000 septic system. Once that money is raised, they will start saving for renovations on the cabins. The camp, a former chicken farm, opened in 1948. The farm owner wanted to donate the property and buildings, contacting over 20 churches before finding one that would take it. (The girls’ bunkhouses used to be chicken coops).
Kimberly is passionate about kids having fun, the simple, old fashioned way. Electronics are not allowed at the camp. The kids learn to interact with each other, one on one. They learn to enjoy just hanging out, playing and chatting with each other. It took my kids about 30 seconds to catch on and they did not want to leave. They especially loved canoeing on the pond and playing gutter ball. (It’s one of those games you have to see to understand but it is a camp favorite).
Kimberly is currently hiring high school and college staff. Twenty-five to 30 high school and 30 college students work at the camp in the summers.
You can contact Kimberly at www.campgilead.org or on facebook at www.facebook/campgilead or www.twitter.com/campgilead.