Building the Bridge to Leadership
Meet Jay Mitchell: husband, father, finance guy and Camp Aldersgate Board President. While board president’s terms are only one year at Camp Aldersgate, Mitchell’s involvement with the organization goes way back…26 years to be exact.
In 1997, Mitchell completed his Eagle Scout project at Aldersgate. He and his fellow scouts removed and rebuilt a bridge that provided a pathway to the archery pavilion. They also placed large rocks in the bank of the creek under the bridge to help prevent any further erosion. Today, the bridge still stands and is crossed by hundreds of campers every year on their way to shoot bows and arrows.
Four years ago, Mitchell was asked by Zach Steadman, board president at the time, to consider joining the board of directors. Mitchell’s former experience with Camp Aldersgate coupled with a childhood full of summers spent at camps made the decision easy.
“I was a big summer camp kid growing up. My fondest memories from growing up are of summer camp,” said Mitchell. In reflecting about his time at various camps in Arkansas and abroad, Mitchell emphasized that Camp Aldersgate provides an important role in ensuring any kid can have the same formative summer camp experiences he did.
“What I love about Camp Aldersgate is that it affords a whole host of kids with a range of considerations and circumstances the ability to come and experience the same things that I experienced at camp that obviously they might not be able to if they just picked any camp on the map.”
This past summer, Mitchell had the opportunity to attend one of the closing ceremonies with his family. Closing ceremonies occur at the end of each camp session. Awards are given, and parents/guardians are able to see how much fun their campers had that week. “My daughter who is eight pulled on my shirt sleeve said,
“Dad, I think they had a lot of fun this week.” For me to see and really appreciate the experience these kids had through the lens of my kids, was overwhelming. It was powerful,” he said.
As for why people should invest their time and money into Camp Aldersgate…Mitchell says it all comes back to the far-reaching impact of the mission beyond childhood and into adulthood.
“I feel strongly that a lot of those experiences that I had at camp…have influenced who I became as an adult. And I don’t think that just because a child is bound to a wheelchair or has a blood disorder or is hearing impaired, can’t and shouldn’t have those exact same experiences. And that is what Camp Aldersgate provides each and every single day. That’s why I believe that people should give. That’s why people should want to get involved. It’s because they’re not just getting involved to provide a weeklong or weekend experience. It’s because what we provide those kids over a week or a weekend lasts them a lifetime.”