For many kids, the YMCA’s Camp Carter offers a welcome break from the day-to-day routine and summertime boredom that can set in once school is out. For kids like David*, it offers much more – a place to be accepted, feel safe and just be free to be a kid.
“I’ve seen too much for a 12-year-old,” he said in a letter to the camp staff. “My dad…he’s in jail and probably won’t get out until I’m in 11th grade, also my mom is in and out of jail. Some people think I’m gonna be the same, but I’m not. I’m different, and I’m proving it so far.”
Every year since 1948, Camp Carter, a branch of the YMCA of Metropolitan Forth Worth, has opened its gates to thousands of children from all walks of life. The camp is a scenic 360-acre oasis only 15 minutes from the sprawling city of Fort Worth, Texas, with year-round programs, including popular, summer-long, overnight and day camps.
Many children attend summer programs at Camp Carter through YMCA financial scholarships provided through the generosity of individual and corporate donors. The camp doesn't turn any child away, regardless of their ability to pay.
“Many of the kids here come from families who don’t have the luxury of being able to afford summer camp, including a lot of active-duty military families from nearby bases,” said Camp Carter Operations Director Chris Williams. “Anything we can do for these kids, we want to do. Some of them are dealing with very heavy life situations. When they come to camp, they can be kids alongside other kids who understand what they're going through.”
That commitment to serving the physical, social and emotional well-being of children led BB&T associates in the North Texas Region to select Camp Carter as its 2019 Lighthouse Project recipient. BB&T’s Lighthouse Project annually empowers associates across the nation to make a difference in their local communities and provide their chosen organizations both financial support and paid-time off for hands-on volunteering.
“We were doing outdoor work in June, in Texas, so you can imagine it was hot, humid and full of bugs, but that didn’t dampen our team’s spirit one bit,” said BB&T Market Leader Samiksha Ojha, the Lighthouse team co-captain. “We worked hard, but laughed and had a good time doing it. And once we were able to look up and see the impact it had, it was awesome.”
Teams worked in rotations for three days completing beautification projects such as staining a floating dock, refurbishing a pipe fence and revamping a basketball court. With their Lighthouse funding, they purchased a lifeguard paddle board to improve safety on the lake, updated a variety of sporting equipment and replaced 25 outdated coil spring mattresses with new, memory foam ones.
“We want to offer as many scholarships to as many children as we can, so we're looking to off-set costs at every turn,” Williams said. “BB&T came in and put money into things we wanted to do, but just couldn’t. We were absolutely blown away and humbled. So many friendships were made and so many lives touched by their kindness and generosity.”
“We didn’t know going in that it would have so much impact,” said BB&T Market Leader Kwame Nkrumah, the Lighthouse team co-captain. “But seeing how engaged and thankful the staff and kids were, it made us realize, this was a big deal. Everyone was really touched by the whole experience. There were a lot of joyful tears shed at the camp, let’s just say that!”
*For privacy reasons, we have not included any identifying information.