Mid-July last summer we received the following message via our website:
Greetings from NE PA Synod!
We would like to send our 2022 Vacation Bible School Offering to you to assist with expenses on the farm.
Please let us know. Our VBS at Trinity Lutheran, ----------, PA is August 2nd-4th, 2022.
When we saw your message Friday evening, we were speechless. Thank you so much for thinking of us and our farm. If you don't mind us asking, we would love to know how you heard about us and really, why us?
Second, we would humbly accept the contribution from Trinity's VBS!
This summer we completed our second summer of Farm Camp. In 2021 we hosted 12 children for one week of farm camp and this summer we grew to offering two weeks with a total of 48 spots. Next summer we are looking to grow to 4 weeks and a project for Q4 for us is to research what it looks like to start with a scholarship fund and sponsorships of camp. If it is alright with you, we would like for this donation to be the first contribution to our Farm Camp Scholarship fund!
Thank you again for thinking of us and if there's anything we can do for y'all during your week of camp we'd love to! Zoom, send video greetings or pictures, or any other creative ideas you may have, we're happy to help and participate in that way!
SARAH & BRANDON BOWERS
What in the world? A church states away wanted to contribute to our farm. We really couldn’t believe it, but we were excited that this could be a catalyst for something we had been wanting to pursue. We weren’t sure how much would come or even how we would distribute the scholarship funds, but we were certainly in a place to let go and see where the Spirit was moving.
The following weeks were filled with back-and-forth communication with Pastor Nancy. She requested some pictures and more information about the camp, she shared with us how she incorporated our farm and camp into her sermon leading up to VBS, and she shared pictures of VBS and how excited both the children and adults were about this partnership. Through it all, we really just couldn’t believe this was happening.
Once their week of VBS was over, the amount collected from the children was then shared with the congregation and they were challenged to match the donation. When the final amount came in the mail, the congregation had not just doubled, or tripled the amount the children raised, but over 8x what the kiddos had collected during their week! Brandon and I were completely overwhelmed with gratitude, absolutely speechless, and in tears. The generosity of complete strangers, that saw what we were doing and thought it was worthy enough to contribute their hard-earned money to was almost more than I could take. Humbling doesn’t even begin to fully encompass what we felt.
This donation was the first to our scholarship fund for Farm Camp. It has also been the encouragement for us to pursue another dream we’ve had for the farm. We are in the process of making all of our educational pieces to the farm part of a non-profit. The process is not complete yet but is well on its way.
So, what does this mean for Farm Camp 2023? Brandon and I had many conversations and dream sessions about what this donation could mean for Farm Camp. We did a lot of googling, research, asking others who deal with and provide scholarships, and more, and it seemed we kept coming back to one thing: welcome. We LOVE sharing the farm with children, that’s a major piece of our excitement around Farm Camp. We also know that many children with disabilities may not feel like it’s the right fit for them. We want to work towards Farm Camp being a space where all children will be welcomed in an integrated space and this scholarship fund will help us get a little closer!
Last summer, we were so lucky to have a family trust us with their son. I remember exactly where I was when I got the phone call from his mom asking if Farm Camp would be a place her son could come. She shared with me that he has Autism and that while they desperately want to find opportunities for him to be around his peers, both disabled and non-disabled, they often found their experience was hurtful. She shared that when they would go to the playground in their neighborhood, oftentimes other children wouldn’t want to play with him or might even leave.
I shared with her what we were willing to do, what my experience had been around children with disabilities, and that with her help and guidance we would do everything we could to make sure her son found a home and friendship at camp.
Like all new things, we learned a lot about accommodations. All the work was worth it to have him as part of the group, and his mom was so gracious and kind in her suggestions to ensure we were accommodating his disability. One thing we learned was that it would have been best if he had more direct one-to-one attention from a staff member that wasn’t shared with the rest of the group but devoted to him.
This year, we plan to offer such accommodations to our campers with disabilities with the money from our scholarship fund. This money will go towards paying extra staff to be present for our campers with disabilities to ensure a positive experience for all campers and to make sure we can integrate all children together. I’m not going to say that we will be able to accommodate everything, but we are promising that we will try and that everything is certainly what we’re aiming for! We will do our best to work with parents and guardians to make sure we have a specific staff member that is the right fit for your camper; whether that be a child with developmental or intellectual disabilities like Autism, a child with limb differences, a Deaf or hard of hearing child, a Blind child or child who experiences low vision, we want to learn more about how we can provide an accessible experience for all children. We hope to make Farm Camp a gift to more kiddos and provide disabled and non-disabled children a chance to be in harmony together.
Throughout a week at Farm Camp, we teach our campers about the importance of the ecosystem of the farm. We don't just raise one animal, but have many different ones that all work together to nurture and heal one another while also healing the land. While no metaphor is without flaw, we think Farm Camp should be the same. Farm camp isn't just for boys or girls, just for city kids or country kids, and it's certainly not just for non-disabled or disabled children, but instead, we can all work alongside one another to help heal our hearts and minds in love and acceptance of all who are here and what we can all do to love and care for creation.
The kindness of the mom last summer to trust us with her child, the generosity of a congregation located multiple states away, and the joy with which others give to our scholarship fund are all such a gift! Gifts that make this world, and most certainly Farm Camp, a better and more welcoming place!
So, do you know a Free-Range Farm Kid that may need specific accommodations or just a little extra help to participate in camp? Do you know a family who would love for their child to participate in something like this but are never quite sure how accessible something will be? Please share this with them! We want to continue to make sure that ALL know they are welcomed at Bowers Farm, especially Farm Camp!
Check out the full Farm Camp Announcement: https://shoutout.wix.com/so/0aONB0d05?languageTag=en