The holiday season is quickly approaching, but Keith Ries and Meredith Raley are already making plans for summer 2010.
Ries and Raley are assistant directors of Camp Ozark, one of the largest Christian sports and adventure camps in the country.
They spent all of last week on campus recruiting Auburn students to work as counselors at Camp Ozark next summer.
“I think it’s an opportunity that most people don’t get the option to do, so if they can do it I encourage them to,” Ries said. “Because it will transform their lives because of the people you’ll come across, the challenges that you’ll face, but more so just the impact that God will make through you at a summer camp like this.”
Auburn was Ries and Raley’s first stop on their month-long staff recruitment tour around the Southeast.
Both Ries and Raley said they had a positive experience recruiting people on Auburn’s campus.
“It’s been good; it’s been challenging,” Ries said. “The weather has played a difficult role so we’ve had to make some changes so I think it kind of affected our overall outcome today, but it was good. The people that I felt like we’re here were great.”
Ries said 30 out of the 250 staff members at Camp Ozark last summer were Auburn students, and he said he hopes they have the same turnout in 2010.
“We usually have a great response from Auburn,” Ries said. “The people are usually very friendly and open to talk,”
Camp Ozark was founded in 1949 and is in Mount Ida, Ark. as Ozark Boys Camp by several Christian athletes.
The camp has changed ownership three times in its 60-year history, boasting 58 cabins and approximately 4,000 campers per summer.
The camp is currently directed by Sam and Susan Torn. In addition to the physical site, the Torn started the Camp Ozark Foundation and Ozone, a ministry based in Houston and Dallas, Texas.
The camp is non-denominationally Christian and is open for children ages 7 to 17.
Activities offered include land and water sports and activities such as basketry and rocketry.
Camp Ozark employs college students as cabin counselors and extreme serve counselors.
An extreme serve counselor’s duties include working in the kitchen or the office or acting as the camp photographer.
“To be a counselor you have to love, love, love kids,” Raley said. “You have to have a skill and be a positive Christian role model, and you have to have a wild and crazy streak running up and down your spine. You have to be ready to have a good time, to go 110 percent, 24 hours a day.”
Ries said spirituality is the backbone of Camp Ozark.
“That’s what our main goal is,” Ries said. “When we recruit that’s what we look for. It’s the premise behind why we are there. What the counselors and our staff have experienced, we want the kids to be able to experience that. That’s our main focus, that’s why our camp exists.”
Every day of activities at Camp Ozark ends with a nightly devotional service led by the cabin counselors.
The devotionals consist of games, songs and sermons delivered by the camp staff.
“We love kids and we love Jesus, and we love to help kids come to know Christ,” Raley said. “More than just who Jesus is, we want it to be personal, and we want it to be a part of their life; for Jesus to be their life. We do that through relationships and showing them Jesus in how we live our day to day lives.”
David Barnett, senior in exercise science, has worked at Camp Ozark every summer since 2006.
Barnett said the friendships he has established at Camp Ozark make him want to come back every year.
“There’s not many opportunities in your life where you get to do something like this,” Barnett said. “You have to do internships and work and stuff like that. This is one of those times you can work with kids and people outside of Alabama and make a lot of lasting relationships.”
To conclude their week of recruitment, Ries and Raley hosted a video presentation and information session in the Student Center last Thursday.
The majority of people in attendance came because they spoke with Ries or Raley during the week but some Ozark veterans, like Barnett, came to show their support.
Taylor Jackson, freshman in computer science, said the video presentation convinced him to apply to work at Camp Ozark.
“When the guy stopped me while I was walking by he said, ‘Hey, you want to work at a Christian camp?’ and I was kind of interested,” Jackson said. “I didn’t really know a lot about the camp which is why I wanted to come down here and learn more about it, and it seems like a lot of fun and I’m really considering going and working there.”
For more information on Camp Ozark, visit www.campozark.com.