Balling Out

If you’re from the state of Alabama, there’s a good chance you have watched at least one University of Alabama football game. And if you have, there’s also a good chance you have seen something a little strange on the sideline after an exceptional defensive play. At every Alabama football game, a WWE belt floats around, passing from the hands of coaches to the hands of worthy players. That sideline is full of the best of the best, but they still acknowledge those that go above and beyond. It’s a part of their culture to do better than their best and to recognize good, hard work.

Like the University of Alabama, Sawyerville Day Camp is full of traditions, and as we embarked on our twenty-fourth summer, we thought it was about time we start a new one. Taking a page from the University of Alabama’s book, we decided to award our own “Ball Out Belt” to the counselor in each camp that went above the call of duty in service, attitude, helpfulness, love, hard work, or just about anything else. There is no doubt in our minds that we have the best and the brightest on staff every summer here at Sawyerville, but any staff member could attest to the positive effect that the exceptional work of another has on them. The SDC staff is as much a team as the one wearing crimson and white standing on the sideline on Saturday afternoons is, and we so appreciate those that go above and beyond for this team.


So, a new tradition was born during Session 1. Each night in camp meetings, the coordinators and staff determined who will win the Ball Out Belt for being a baller that day. Then, at the end of staff worship, the belts were awarded. There were cheers and drumrolls and dramatic readings about the merit and characteristics of a Ball Out Belt recipient. Stories of wonderful work were told, and pictures were taken. The next day, the ballers wore their belts proudly around camp until handing it over to the next recipient that night.


The Ball Out Belt was been a whole lot of fun this summer, as well as an important symbol. It served as a “thank you” for all the hard work that goes into making camp a success. It acted as a motivator, to encourage everyone to go above and beyond. And it stood as a symbol of a “better than your best” culture, a culture Sawyerville strives to have every single day. 

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The certificate reads,

“You are among the first of many lionhearted champions of Sawyerville Day Camp. Your send of duty and commitment today and every day has set the precedence for years of greatness. You have paved a golden path for the parade of mighty counselors that will strive to follow in your exemplary behavior. With the grace of a gazelle and the strength of a raging fire, you proved your abilities as a leader in the way you showed love to your campers and fellow counselors today. Your character and might pierced through the sweat and rose above the heat of this day. Men and women like you are the backbone of this band of brothers and sisters. You have been given the privilege to wear the Ball Out Belt because of your fortitude today, but with great honor comes great responsibility. You must honor the gravity of this symbolic gesture. Go forth and continue to uphold and defend the covenant with your life as is your duty and destiny. Continue to prove through word and action that not all heroes wear capes, but that the great ones wear belts.”



YLP is the place to be!


The Yellowhammer Learning Program, the academic extension of Sawyerville Day Camp, is underway! The YLP works towards the same goals as the day camp: to love God, broaden the horizons of participants and staff, and improve race relations in Alabama. While the day camp accomplishes these goals through Bible lessons and group activities, the Yellowhammer Learning Program accomplishes these goals through academic instruction, character building lessons, and a very small teacher to student ratio. Both programs aim to help the campers and students grow up to be happy, healthy, and successful in whatever they do.

We’re half-way through the first week of the learning program, and we’re looking forward to the next four weeks! While many traditions remain from the first three years of YLP, this summer we have some amazing new opportunities for our students!

Location, Location, Location

This summer, the Yellowhammer Learning Program is held at Greensboro Elementary School. That means we’re on the same campus as Sawyerville Day Camp which solves all kinds of logistical hiccups. The YLP has its own building, affectionately known as “The Nest”, and it has been transformed into an engaging and inspirational learning environment.

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Third Grade Rock Stars

In years past, the YLP taught rising fifth- and sixth-graders. This year, we’ve shifted to serving rising third-grade students, because studies show that reading on grade level by third grade is crucially important. Up to third grade, students learn to read. After third grade, students read to learn. If students aren’t reading proficiently by the time they reach fourth grade, they are much more likely to get left behind and even drop out of school. Because we love the children in this community, we want to give them a boost at this pivotal moment in their education, a boost that could set them up for success for the rest of their lives. Next summer we’ll welcome back this same group of students as rising fourth-graders and bring in a new cohort of rising third-graders. That way, we’ll support students on either side of this important grade.


Maker Space

In addition to teaching reading, math, science, and chess, we’ve also added a class called “Maker Space.” In this class, students take on engineering challenges like creating a maze for a marble, constructing the tallest Lego tower possible, or perfecting an origami bird. Tinkering with these projects gives students the opportunity to self-direct their own learning through trial and error and to work as a team to accomplish a common goal.


Just Keep Swimming

Learning is not just for the classroom this year! On Mondays and Wednesdays, we travel to Judson College in Marion, AL and teach the students to swim. The YLP interns have been certified as lifeguards and trained to give swimming lessons. With this addition, our students are encouraged to learn in a broader sense, as we reach outside the classroom and expand the mindset and horizons of our third graders.


Parent Nights

Although Parent Night has always been an awesome tradition for the YLP, we have changed locations this summer. Parent Night now takes place at the new Martin Stewart Community Center on the corner North and Whalen Street, next to Puddle Jumper Preschool. This open space, sponsored and created by HERO Housing is designed to share meals, hold larger groups, and bring the YLP community together. This year’s Parent Night programs will include financial literacy, reading as a family, and healthy cooking. Thank you to everyone who has or will provide dinner or teach a program! Special thanks to Beth Wilder for coordinating these events!

Are you following the YLP on social media? Make sure to “like” us so you can keep up with the students as they grow!

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Skill Sessions

Today, we close out Session 1 of SDC 2017! It is hard to believe that this session has come and gone so quickly. We will miss our staff and campers that can’t join us for later sessions, but we have lots to look forward to as the summer continues. Next week marks the start of the Yellowhammer Learning Program, and we cant’ wait to see how our rising third graders will learn and grow as they take part in specially designed math, chess, science, and reading curricula. Tonight is also our first Family Night of the summer, and we are so excited to welcome the loved ones of our campers for an evening of fun, food, and fellowship.

Session 1 looked a little different this summer than in the past, especially in Upper Camp. This summer, our Upper Campers had the opportunity to focus on certain activities in the afternoon in what we call Skill Sessions. We were so excited to introduce Skill Sessions this summer so that our older campers could really focus on and improve upon certain skills. They signed up for a specific Skill Session at the beginning of the week, choosing between basketball, volleyball, cheerleading, golf, and art. Taught by members of our staff and the community, Skill Sessions are a treat that change every session and remind us of an important lesson while also being a whole lot of fun. DSC_0747CSC_0706

At Sawyerville Day Camp, we know our campers are so uniquely gifted, and when those unique gifts are honed and cultivated, the world is better for it. As 1 Corinthians 12:12 reminds us, we are the body of Christ and we must function just like the human body, with each part carrying out it’s specific function, and carrying it out well. As our Upper Campers are transitioning to a new, more mature chapter of life, we hope that Skill Sessions reminded them how important their individual gifts and skills are. We hope the dedication to improving and cultivating their skills that they learned in Skill Sessions will stick with them as they continue to find new gifts and skills later in life. We hope that learning how to accurately shoot a basketball, or how to paint with acrylics, or how to properly hit a golf ball was not only fun, but also helped teach our Upper Campers that they can make a world of difference in their communities if they just learn to use their gifts. We hope that, above all else, they can go out into the world and help serve it as a hand or a foot or a heart of the body of Christ. Whatever body part they grow to be, we hope that Sawyerville Day Camp played some small role in that development.

First Day of Camp 2017

They’re here! They’re here! Today is the first day of Sawyerville Day Camp 2017, and the campers have arrived!

This morning, our staff of 109 high school students, college-age young people, and adults welcomed 250 campers ages 6-14.  So far, they’ve had breakfast, some are off to swim in Marion, and others are digging into the program.

Our program theme this summer is “Be Not Afraid.” Campers in Lower and Middler Camp will study the story of Jesus walking on water, the angel visiting Mary, Jesus calming the storm, and the great commission. Upper Campers will learn about how Jesus conquered fear, how prayer can make us brave, and how being fearless helps us to achieve our goals.

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Sure, this theme covers our t-shirts and the campers’ backpacks, and it makes for a great hashtag, but we also hope that during this week it will become a defining phrase in the lives of our campers. Fear wears many different hats, but we remind our campers that no matter the fear, they can find courage in God. This morning, as our Upper Campers dove into this theme, they wrote down their fears on their hands and on notecards. The fears ranged from spiders to getting into college, from heights to death. For a moment, the room was filled with all kinds of fears: written fears, spoken fears, and fears kept deep inside. Fear consumed the moment, but only briefly. Fear didn’t hold onto the hearts of our Upper Campers, because they literally washed their hands of it. They wrote down new things, like what gives them courage, and how they can display that courage this week. It’s only Day One of camp, and our campers are already fighting the battle against fear. We cannot wait see how they grow in courage and learn to walk through life fearlessly as they continue this programming throughout the week.


We’re looking forward to the rest of Session 1! Be sure to follow us on social media to keep up with camp throughout the week.

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Let’s get it started

It’s time to get camp, y’all!

Greensboro Elementary is bustling with activity and energy because this week marks the beginning of Sawyerville 2017! Our Session 1 coordinators arrived last night, and the rest of staff arrived this morning. We’ve been busy training staff and preparing for camp to start Monday. Session 1 is bringing some familiar staff faces, as well as some new faces, and we are so expectant for how the Lord will empower our staff and move in our campers.

It has been non-stop action since the coordinators arrived last night. There have been tours, meetings, laughs, games, organization, meals, and plenty more. There is still lots to do to prepare for camp Monday, but there are more than enough helping hands to get the jobs done, and for that we are thankful.


DSC_3747The morning started with staff registration, a time filled with dancing, hugs, and matching t-shirts that was quickly followed by an intense game of Duck-Duck-Goose. After that, it was on to tours, meetings, and preparation. Our new staffers took a tour of Greensboro and learned more about the town and camp while our veteran staffers helped prepare for camper registration later this afternoon.


DSC_3865The first camper registration is especially exciting because it is the first time all summer we get to see any of our campers. The gym at GES was full of reuniting campers and counselors. There were plenty of hugs and high fives to go around, and it was so sweet to see that the campers are just as excited for camp as we are.

As all the organized chaos that goes with preparing for the beginning of camp surrounds us, we feel especially thankful for all the support Sawyerville receives. To all the staff and coordinators that take time out of their summer and leave behind jobs and family, thank you for pouring in to the kids and in to each other. To all those individuals and parishes that donated swimsuits, books, towels, and more, thank you for putting a smile on a child’s face. To those who support us in prayer or any other capacity, thank you for covering us with love. We are so grateful that you feel called into this ministry with us, and we cannot thank you enough.


Before the storm (and in the middle of it)

Written by Katie Timmons, SDC Intern

For a few days, the lights were off and the office was quiet. Our team took a few days to attend a retreat together, where we got to know one another better, clarify goals for camp, and just have some good old fashioned fun. Thanks to the hospitality of Reverend Polk Van Zandt and his wife Mary Jo, who let us stay in their beautiful home, we spent the last two and half days in Sewanee, Tennessee. Sewanee was full of lots of things. Trees, for one, something we don’t see much of from our office windows in downtown Birmingham. Laughs, as we watched silly movies, told funny stories over lunch, and played team building games that were just as hilarious as they were unifying. Learning, as we became more familiar with our roles at camp and with each other as people rather than simply coworkers. And rain, which was fairly unexpected.

When I looked at my handy dandy weather app before leaving for Sewanee, it looked like it was going to be a beautiful few days. Lots of sun, mild temperatures, and no rain until we were already back in Birmingham. Either the handy dandy app lied to me, or God just decided Sewanee was a little too dry. And while it might have made for some muddy shoes and some frizzy hair, I am actually quite glad it rained.

You see, I’m a new intern. Not only that, but I am new to Sawyerville entirely.  I’ve never been to camp before. Besides the answers to the (probably excessive) questions I have asked and the various descriptions I have read about camp and my job, I really know nothing. It’s quite honestly a little scary, just like a big thunder storm can be.

So, when it stormed in Sewanee, it resonated with me more than weather usually does. Right now is the storm. Today is our last day in the office before we move supplies and ourselves down to Greensboro. I see anxious faces in the workplace as my fellow interns work hard to make sure all of their tasks are completed and completed well. It feels as if there is surely not enough time to get everything done. Even as things get crossed off the to-do list, new things get added. The little knot in the bottom of my stomach reminds me of my own anxiety as I am about to jump headfirst into something completely new. It’s like the beginning of a thunder storm, when you aren’t sure how long it will last, how wild it might get, or how much rain will actually fall.

But even in the midst of a stormy day, there can be sunshine. And when that happens, you get a rainbow. Sewanee showed me that, literally and figuratively. retreat rainbow

See, rainbows are rare. Everyone thinks that if it is raining and the sun is also shining, there should be a rainbow, but that just isn’t the case. The conditions have to be perfect. The sun has to be shining at the perfect angle so as to intersect with the water droplets as they fall at their own specific angle. The rain droplets have to be the right size, and the amount of sun and rain must be in the perfect ratio so that one does not overthrow the other entirely. That’s why rainbows are so beautiful and so magical, because the conditions must be crafted with a divine hand or else they can’t happen.

Sawyerville Day Camp will be a rainbow this summer.  I’ve never been, but I am as sure of this as I am of my own name. It is going to rain. Life happens, and no app can predict it. We can plan and look ahead as much as we want, but there will be both literal and figurative rain this summer. But, there will also be so much sunshine. Every smile on a child’s face, every relationship built, every step made towards Jesus will be a ray of sunshine. When that sunshine intersects that rain, there will be rainbows. The Lord is so faithful, and I know His hand will create rainbow conditions all summer long.

Preparing for camp is it’s own storm, and we are in the middle of that right now. Today, I’m able to see all the little rainbows that go along with that storm. My fellow interns are sunshine when my anxiety is rain. Generous donors are sunshine when long to-do lists are rain. Camp is sure to be a different storm entirely, with some rain, some sunshine, and hundreds and hundreds of rainbows of its own. Thanks to our time in Sewanee and God’s constant reminders of His presence in all situations, I can now look forward to those rainbows instead of fearing that rain.


The interns are coming!

While Paul Revere might not have announced their arrival, and while they have actually been here for a almost a week, we are so excited to have our interns in the office hard at work! The second floor of Carpenter House is a little more crowded and noisy than usual, but there is so much work getting done. Paperwork is being shuffled, computers are whirring as furious fingers type away, and everything from plans to supplies are being organized and categorized.

Each of our seventeen interns has been diligently checking things off of their to-do lists and crossing days off of their calendars. Our registrar team is hard at work making sure all of our campers and students are properly registered for camp, as well as insuring our staff is ready to go. Our teams of camp coordinators are designing schedules, plans for rainy days, and activities for each session. Our meals and supplies assistants are taking careful inventory of everything from snacks to pool towels, and noting what else we might need. Our other YLP interns are, in addition to their own jobs of planning field trips and chess lessons, putting together curriculum for our students. And the communications team has been busy keeping you up to date on all of it. In short, the office is a frenzy of activity, which we know means this year will be the best yet at Sawyerville Day Camp and the Yellowhammer Learning Program.

In the midst of crossing things off these to-do lists, our interns have also been meeting some new faces. On Monday, the whole group met the staff of Carpenter House over lunch (thank you, Carpenter House staff, it was delicious!) The Right Reverend Kee Sloan even made sure we celebrated the birthdays of our interns Robert and Faith with the rest of the May-birthday staff. Then on Thursday, we all introduced ourselves to the Diocesan Council, and showed them just how excited we are for Sawyerville this summer. How lucky are we to serve in ministry for such a gracious and generous diocese? “Very” is the answer.

YLP interns

Even outside of the physical walls of Carpenter House, things are happening to make Sawyerville a success. All day on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, parishes across the state and other organizations have been dropping off supply donations at St. Stephen’s Episcopal in Birmingham. Our interns have taken shifts manning the drop off and collecting and packing the supplies up so that next Friday, we can move them all down to Greensboro! We have collected boxes upon boxes of swimsuits, towels, books, snacks, shirts, and so much more. We are truly blown away by the generosity shown to Sawyerville, because without it, camp would not be the same!

supply interns

As you can see, it has been a busy week. Our interns walked in the door Monday morning at 8:30, and then we blinked! It is crazy to think a week has already gone by, but that means we are one week closer to the start of camp, and that is something to be happy about. We are all looking forward to a weekend of relaxation, followed by an intern retreat in Sewanee full of bonding, work, and good food at the beginning of next week. Before we know it, we will be moving to Greensboro and camp will be in full swing!

Now’s a great time to double check that you’re following us on social media – you don’t want to miss a thing.

SDC Facebook // SDC Instagram // SDC Twitter

YLP Facebook // YLP Instagram // YLP Twitter