Westminster College Community Volunteers to Mentor Abused and Neglected Children

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

NEW WILMINGTON, Pa. - Seventeen Westminster College students, alumni, faculty and staff took a week out of their summer to volunteer at the Royal Family Kids Camp (RFKC) at Camp Kon-O-Kwee/Spencer in Fombell.

RFKC is a week-long camp for children from Lawrence County between the ages of 7-11 who have been abused, neglected or abandoned. During their week at the camp the children participated in fun-filled activities such as swimming, fishing, rock wall climbing and canoeing.

According to the Royal Family Kids' website 3.6 million cases of child abuse, neglect or abandonment are reported annually in America and one of these victims dies every six hours. "The primary purpose of Royal Family Kids' Camp is to give children a week of positive memories in a Christian environment."

Colleen Hannon '97, M ‘07, associate registrar at Westminster College, has volunteered at the camp for six years. Four of those years she helped as a night time relief counselor by helping to get the children ready for bed, reading books to them and brushing their hair while their counselors went for their only break of the day. This summer was Hannon's second year at the camp full time.

"My first year at the camp as a full-time leadership staff member was incredibly life changing for me. God used a little boy named Brandon to take me completely out of my comfort zone and teach me about unconditional love," Hannon said. "I'm a bit germaphobic and Brandon had been eating an apple, which was very chewed up and slobbered on, there was no apple skin on it at all.  He heard the announcement that they were giving the "sharp shooter" awards out and he smiled and told me that he was getting one of those.  He started to run toward the stage and turned to me with his apple in hand to give it to me. Without a thought I grabbed it from him. God changed my life in that moment.  I was able to see Brandon like God sees each of us.  Our lives can be really messed up, pitiful, disgusting, ugly and unappealing, but God sees past that ugliness because of His unconditional love for us."

The mission of Westminster College is to help men and women develop competencies, commitments and characteristics which have distinguished human beings at their best. The College sees the well-educated person as one whose skills are complemented by ever-developing values and ideals identified in the Judeo-Christian tradition. Westminster's quest for excellence is recognition that stewardship of life mandates the maximum possible development of each person's capabilities and for the Westminster community to demonstrate moral and ethical commitments to neighbor, society, and the natural world.

"I am so proud to be a Westminster alumna and employee, and be able to work with so many of the staff and students who give of themselves physically, emotionally and mentally," Hannon said.

Leah Hunter, a senior psychology major, also volunteered this summer. "I was so blessed to have the experience of working at this camp. These children deserve to be labeled as precious and good. When I left the camp I felt a lot of sorrow for what I had and they didn't.

Hunter is a daughter of David and Tawnee Hunter and a graduate of Wilmington Area High School.

"The students leave a lasting impression on you," said camp counselor and Westminster alumna Kayla Rosati Gregorich '10. "The happiness you share with them all week is unforgettable and so is the sadness you share at the end of the week. You hope that the seed you planted in them grows and they never forget the love you showed them."

Rosati Gregorich, who was an early education major at Westminster, learned about the camp through a Westminster classmate. "I was hesitant at first because of the backgrounds of the children, but after receiving more information I knew it was right for me. Participating at the camp during college gave me a better understanding of the diverse population. It put into prospective that these children have no control over the situation they are dealt. They struggle in school because of this. Being involved gave me the realization that I did choose the right profession. I hope the rewards I have gained from camp will carry over into my future classroom. It shows how great our college is and it truly is one of a kind. I truly believe the community would not be the same without the help of Westminster College."

Assistance for the children will continue on the Westminster campus during the fall semester. Students majoring in early childhood/special education will be raising money.

"Donations toward the Royal Family Kids Camp would help equip the staff with resources to make this unforgettable experience possible," said Dr. Amy Camardese, associate professor and chair of the education department. "Campers are not only sent home with gifts, clothing and books, but also with the security of knowing that God is always with them and that they are loved."

To learn more about RFKC or how you can get involved email Beth Pears, director of Lawrence County RFCK, or visit www.royalfamilykids.org .

About Westminster College...
Founded in 1852 and related to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Westminster College ranks first in the nation as "Best College for Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math," according to Forbes.com. Westminster is a top-tier liberal arts college and a national leader in graduation rate performance, according to U.S. News Best Colleges guide. Westminster is also honored as one of "The Best 377 Colleges" by The Princeton Review, and is named to the President's Honor Roll for excellence in service learning.

Nearly 1,600 undergraduate and graduate students benefit from individualized attention from dedicated faculty while choosing from 42 majors and nearly 100 organizations on the New Wilmington, Pa., campus. Visit www.westminster.edu/advantage to view "Advantage: Westminster" A Strategic Plan 2010-2020.

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Westminster College students, alumni and staff at the Royal Family Kids Camp: Back (L-R) Jocelyn McCartney, Jordyn Moon, Ashley Thiebaud, Amanda Cunningham, Leah Hunter, Beth Pears '90; Director RFKC Lawrence County Front (L-R) Nicole Jodikinos, Kirstyn Gecina '10, Kayla Rosati Gregorich '10, Megan Carlton