The Shiloh Experience
Six years ago, a group of individuals got together and decided to make a difference in the lives of "at-risk children." Deciding on a course of action to meet this need, "Shiloh" was born. Shiloh is a Biblical word meaning, “a place of peace,” and that is just what the camp hopes to offer the children it serves.
Executive Director, Andy Edwards, views the camp as an opportunity for children to “experience the love of Jesus through sports, arts, and meaningful relationships.” Edwards has been involved with Shiloh since March 2005 when he accepted the executive director position.
Although Edwards said the term is relative, for Shiloh’s purposes, “at-risk” refers to children who may not otherwise have the financial means to attend a summer camp.
“We want all kids to be able to experience camp and we know that there are thousands that would never get this opportunity if Shiloh were not here,” he said, adding that any child, at-risk or not, is welcome to attend.
Located at 601 NE 63 Street in Oklahoma City, Shiloh welcomed its first campers during the summer of 2001. Set on forty acres and modeled after Missouri’s camp KAA, Edwards said Shiloh currently includes an outdoor amphitheater, fishing pond, full high and low element ropes courses, a covered basketball gym, two art rooms, and a small barn.
Edwards expects from 350-450 campers to attend the various weeklong sessions during the summer of 2007. While activities such as pottery, archery and horseback riding will be offered, he said that is not what most of the children look forward to the most.
“Honestly, it seems the thing they enjoy most is being around people who they can sense truly care about them,” he said.
Edwards further explained that Shiloh gives children a chance to hear about the love of Jesus while also learning self-worth and confidence. He said each child leaves camp knowing they are loved and important.
Edwards said many campers come from other organizations within the OKC area, but some are from individual families. Children from outside the OKC area are welcome to attend Shiloh. Campers range in age from eight to sixteen and are asked to pay a $20 fee; however, scholarships are available, as most are unable to pay.
“We ask individuals and businesses in the community to provide scholarships for around 400 campers at $200 per camper,” he said. “We are grateful for each donation that made it possible for 350 kids to attend Shiloh camp 2006.”
Shiloh camp runs Monday through Thursday 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Fridays from 9:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. On this day, friends and parents are invited to arrive at six to enjoy dinner and a talent show.
“Each camper will receive a breakfast bar, lunch and afternoon snack every day and at the end of camp, each will receive a T-shirt, an award, a Bible, and all the artwork they created throughout the week,” Edwards said.
Plans for expansion are now underway, thanks to a recent donation, which is helping to cover infrastructure costs. This donation will help cover things like water and sewer lines, which must be properly installed before other phases of expansion can begin.
“Our largest need today is to begin work on a multi-purpose facility so campers can have a dry place to go on rainy days and most importantly, bathrooms that are not port-o-potties,” Edwards explained.
Shiloh is mostly a summer day camp at this point, although the ropes course is in use three or four times a month during the spring and fall. The ultimate goal is to provide facilities that can be enjoyed year-round in all types of weather.
“Our goal for the non-summer months is to be a local retreat center for this community along with the possibility of providing after school programs for kids,” Edwards said.
Future plans include a state-of-the art sports complex, an aquaplex, a dining hall, a chapel/arts center, duplex cabins and a leadership cabin with two shepherd’s lodges for overnight stays.
The time frame for expansion is uncertain, as improvements require continued funding at each phase of the project. Edwards said an “aggressive capital campaign” is just beginning, with the hopes that the entire project may be complete and operational by 2009.
Edwards feels fortunate to be part of a place like Shiloh. He said he enjoys watching the children laugh and have fun as all children deserve to do. Watching the summer staff connect with children who may not otherwise realize someone cares for them is a rewarding experience.
Applications for Shiloh camp 2007 will be available online, beginning January 10. For more information about the camp, visit http://www.shilohcamp.org or call (405) 858-7011.