"I love all the activities at camp, especially the night swim when the lights are on in the pool... first we have Bible Study then we go swimming, it seems like a magical place."
Twelve-year old Mario's life has been put on a positive track because of his experiences at The Salvation Army's Camp Happyland.
His family has noticed the difference between him and other kids in his neighborhood.
"Mario doesn't give into peer pressure, he's a good kid and we are so proud of him," his family states.
Mario loves the sports at Camp Happyland, but he has broader goals for his future.
"I'm going to rely on academics and I want to be a scientist one day," he proclaims.
Mario will attend camp for the fifth time this summer and he knows it will be the best part of his summer.
"When I grow up, I will send my kids to Camp Happyland so they can have the same experiences."
These are the words of Mario, a twelve-year-old boy from Southside Richmond who will attend Camp Happyland for the fifth time this coming summer:
"I always leave camp with better understanding of God and how I should live my life for Him."
Mario's spiritual growth reminds me of the lasting influence one week of camp can have. Children are given the opportunity to form positive relationships, gain exposure to the wonders of nature and participate in new and exciting learning activities with other campers from throughout Virginia.
It is a well-documented that healthy changes occur in the development of children who attend summer camp. I hope his story inspires you.
It's hard to fully grasp, but over 38% of children in Richmond live below the poverty level. Further, over a two-year period, the number of Virginia children living in poverty has increased nearly 11 percent. Camp Happyland not only provides these children with a warm, welcoming escape from the confines of poverty, it also helps them rise above the negative influences of the street. Jeffery, Mario's uncle, confirms, "Camp Happyland gave Mario a new set of friends. He's not like the other kids in his neighborhood now. He has a mind to know good from bad and he doesn't give in to peer pressure."
Your investment in the Camp Scholarship Fund is invaluable and enduring. Research has shown that camp participation impacts youth behaviorally, spiritually, physically and socially. When you invest in the Camp Scholarship Fund, you invest in the future of our local youth and in the future of our community.
Every year, The Salvation Army is privileged to serve 30 million people in need across the nation. So, by the time you are finished reading this, 30 more lives will have been changed. We deeply appreciate you and the role your level of generosity has played in doing good by those less fortunate. Your commitment in this way makes you a catalyst for change.
Someone once said, "The three things we crave most in life -- happiness, freedom, and peace of mind -- are always attained by giving them to someone else." So, as summer approaches, I write to ask that you consider contributing to the Camp Scholarship Fund. Your support will provide young men and women with a camping experience that will enrich, enhance and change them for a lifetime.
If you would like to contribute, you can do so online here, or by calling (804) 591-3816.