Think of your top five favorite childhood memories and, for most people, summer camp ranks high on the list. From campfire singalongs to lifelong friendships, summer camp is the quint-essential adolescent experience, helping children all over America gain valuable skills, build healthy habits and develop into independent and confident members of society.
Unfortunately, the high cost of attending camp often keeps many children from realizing their dream of cabin Olympics and silly songs in the dining hall. With the American Camp Association reporting that the average cost to attend sleepaway camp is close to $700 per week, many families can’t afford to foot the bill.
Barefoot Republic has set out to change that.
Offering a diverse range of camp programs including traditional activities like outdoor adventure, horseback riding and fishing, along with unique opportunities in fine and performing arts, music and engineering, what makes Barefoot Republic truly unique is its scholarship program.
“At Barefoot, we want everyone to be able to experience the life-changing impact summer camp can have. That means that finances should not be an issue to keep someone from attending,” says Jake Smith, director of development at Barefoot, adding that the organization’s mission extends into racial diversity as well. “Typically summer camps are very homogeneous, and campers all look the same. Barefoot strives to create an atmosphere that looks like what we see in the world, where it’s a mix of different racial, cultural and socio-economic groups coming together.”
To achieve their vision of a diverse camp experience for a diverse population of children, Barefoot intentionally provides scholarships for 50 percent of their campers every summer. In over 15 years of operation, Barefoot has given away over $1.5 million in scholarship funds and in 2017, the organization plans to provide 1,250 campers with full or partial financial assistance to attend overnight or day camps.
“As a blessed mother of 10 children, I have been a very gracious recipient of scholarships for eight of my children,” says one mother, who found herself single and without financial means to provide a camp experience for her children after leaving an abusive marriage. “It has been a life-changing experience for all of us. The first time I visited Barefoot’s website I’ll never forget watching the video with tears streaming down my face. I could have only dreamed that such a place existed. I knew this was an answer to my prayers for so many reasons.”
Stories like this are at the core of Barefoot's mission, and that mission is motivated by the organization’s firm foundation of faith and belief that God calls all people to care for one another.
“We seek to bring reconciliation into the lives of people who see division in the world every single day,” Smith says. “We are all God’s children, and He wants us to be reconciled to each other and see that we are the same in His eyes. Through Christ’s love, we are reconciled to each other, no matter how we look, what we have or what we have been through.”
Want to get involved? Visit BarefootRepublic.org to find out about sending your child to sleepaway or day-camp, or if you would like to volunteer. If you would like to provide financial assistance for kids to attend camp, you can also consider joining Barefoot’s Annual Camper Scholarship Fund to help cover the $250 expense for day-camp or $500 expense for overnight camp.