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"Seeing the kids here; I don't know how to describe it, but I
left feeling very overwhelmed," admits Shelley-Ann. "The Dominican
Republic is a really, really poor place. But the kids are so full
of everything kids should be full of. And they're so free with it.
They have such love and joy, and their laughter-they shared it. I
was so blessed to have been there."
She and my mother made plans during the visit to translate Camp
Edify into a program for her ministry in the Dominican Republic.
Shelley-Ann will take a key, prominent role in the programming,
logistics, and resourcing of this special initiative.
"Camp Edify is an amazing thing," she says. "I know I'm the
founder but I've always felt like I was just kind of there while it
was just happening. It was definitely a God thing and not a Shelley
thing. There are many, many stories I could tell to testify to
that. I saw a need. I wanted these kids to not just have sports
camps and church camps; there was a need for kids to just be kids.
They're losing their childhood at a faster rate every day. There
needed to be something that was holistic and addressed the complete
child. That's how camp Edify came to be. It's a place to bridge the
gap between school and doing nothing. 'Edify' stands for Education
and Direction for Intelligent and Fit Youth. It included sports,
nutritional, spiritual, and social aspects as well. It's always
been in my heart to have that same concept overseas as well."
Camp Edify was initially designed to meet kids' basic needs while
providing them with a positive and faith-centered social
experience. A basic day at Camp Edify begins at 8:30, but doors
open at 7 to accommodate working parents. The day kicks off with
the camp theme song. Counselors introduce the weekly theme in the
form of a skit-for instance, the Hives Detective Agency with bee
detectives searching for all their "attitudes." The camp provides
healthy snacks, educational programming, and a hot lunch program.
The afternoons are filled with organized play, arts and crafts,
sports, swimming, more snacks, and a closing.
The result of Shelley-Ann's partnership with my mother is exciting
and holds great benefits for the impoverished children my mother
"I'll provide the daily programs for the camp and customize them
for the kids down here," says Shelley-Ann. "Down here the needs are
different. The education will be different. I can help train the
leaders here so they can continue-and spread-the program on their
In addition to great social experiences, faith-infused lessons,
and healthy food, Shelly-Ann wants kids to leave Camp Edify with
the sense that they have a purpose and a calling.
"My message is 'Pushing Hard, Driving Well, and Having Joy,' " she
says. "It's what my team focused on during the two weeks of the
Olympics. We had to focus on what we could control. I wanted to
make the Olympic team. I wanted to be a medalist. But I knew that
was not under my control. You have to get picked. So I decided to
be the best Shelley-Ann I could be. If that Shelley-Ann didn't make
the team, at least I knew I was the best I could be. Kids
"I'm glad I have the medal; it's a symbol," she continues. "But
the journey is my reward. I wouldn't have thought I could
accomplish some of the things I've done this year, but I did and
now I know what I'm capable of. I cultivated a discipline I didn't
think I had. I found an endurance that I didn't think was possible
for me. I was stronger than I thought was. God showed me a lot
about myself on the journey. I believe he will do the same for
every child, and I want Camp Edify to be part of that."
"I plan to do one more season in the athletic world," says
Shelley-Ann when I asked about her goals for the future. "I'd love
to have a nice season. Our goal is to win at World Cups this year
and win at World Championships. And I'd like to continue with
public speaking, inspiring and motivating others. But my big goal
right now is to get Camp Edify established for Ambassadors of
Christ here in the Dominican Republic." There's a pause as the
ambitious athlete ponders for a moment her expanding dream. "We
really need to get three going, not just one." cm
Emily Springfield plays percussion and sings
on a ministry worship team when she's not working to spread the
word about Ambassadors of Christ.
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