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Jul12TueFaith, confidence and fun blend at The Salvation Army's Newport camp. July 12, 2016 by Leslie Ferenc
“Moral compass, soldier spirit, servant heart and positive attitude.”
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- Faith & Friends
The motto appears on a banner at The Salvation Army Newport Adventure Camp in Huntsville, Ont., and they're words to live by for “Batman.”
Batman's real name is Quinton Rodrigues, and he's been coming to Newport as a camper since he was 11 years old. Last summer, he returned to put his leadership skills to work as a first-time counsellor.
While this superhero has gone to other camps, Newport was the best fit for the teen, who enjoys the environment as much as the people.
“I've grown up in a Christian home,” he says, adding that Newport is so warm and welcoming it feels like home. “It's reassuring to be in a Christian community, and I absolutely love the location.”
Power and Lasagna
The camp is situated on the shores of Skeleton Lake, where the forest is teeming with wildlife and the beach is beautiful. The Salvation Army also operates the Jackson's Point Camp for younger children.
While a camper at Newport, Quinton always looked up to the counsellors, who were great role models. They inspired him to become a counsellor, too, and he wanted to follow in their footsteps making a difference in the lives of children—the Caped Crusader's way of passing it forward.
“I was honoured to be working there,” he says.
At Newport, kids disconnect from technology so they can connect with old and new friends and their natural surroundings
Quinton agrees that being a counsellor is a huge responsibility and a job that's much harder than it appeared when he was younger, but he was there to give it his all and make it special.
“As a camper, I didn't understand how much effort counsellors put in to make the experience fun and memorable,” says Quinton. “God fed me the energy that I needed.”
So did helpings of his favourite camp meal, lasagna.
Leap of Faith
Ensuring children had the best time possible was high on his priority list. At Newport, kids disconnect from technology so they can connect with old and new friends and their natural surroundings.
It's also an opportunity to connect with their faith—something important for Quinton, who says kids of all backgrounds are welcomed at Salvation Army camps and come together as a family.
“It's nice to connect and share our stories and experiences,” he says, adding that camp offers everyone “a chance to be genuine and real,” and be themselves without judgment.
“Camp also helps build social skills and is an opportunity for kids to try something new, such as kayaking, canoeing, the ropes course, arts and crafts, and playing new games—while having fun, making new friends and being social.”
For him there's nothing more rewarding than seeing campers achieve their goals, big or small. Watching youngsters take a leap of faith—one of the challenges on the giant ropes course—confident their friends are there to support them in all ways, is among Quinton's greatest rewards. Learning to have faith in their abilities and to trust others are among the life-changing experiences nurtured at camp every day.
Reprinted from Toronto Star, July 17, 2015.