The annual Father-Son Camp in East Central Illinois has grown dramatically over the years. It started with three dads and their sons a quarter century ago. This year, upwards of 800 participants came out to experience ministry and some outdoor adventures.
While some camps seem to eschew what they see as “icky” guns, this camp embraces firearms and the shooting sports. Because, as we know, “outdoor adventures” includes fun like archery, riflery and shotgun shooting.
I volunteered to help coach on the rifle line, not really knowing what I signed up for. I was completely unprepared for the huge numbers of participants.
The people just kept coming and coming and the line waiting to shoot kept growing longer. Many of the dads brought their home-schooled kids. Plenty more came from Christian private schools from across Illinois and Indiana. They included the very young as well as older kids. Some had experience shooting. More than a few had never fired a gun before. We fixed that.
One in particular reminded me of Ralph from A Christmas Story . . .
Some of the youngest kids had a hard time getting hits on the target. However, in the end, everyone scored a few. Even if they had a little help from the coaches on either side of them.
Yes, everyone was a winner at this camp.
Interestingly, the camp is put on at no charge to participants. Generous donations fund the entire weekend’s activities and volunteers help run the various events for the boys and their dads – everything from fishing to shooting sports to canoeing. Along with the motivational speakers in the evenings as well.
Here’s more about the camp from FatherSonCamp.org.
Now in its 25th year, Father Son Camp is an annual event in Oakland, Illinois for approximately 600 campers. The camp combines inspiring ministry with outdoor adventures. Our goal is to create lasting memories between fathers and sons, and inspire them to live passionately for God. Knowing that the cost of a weekend like this could prohibit some families from attending, we are funded entirely by donations.
Ministry, meals and some activities are held at Walnut Point State Park. Other activities including paintball, obstacle course and archery/rifle range are held at the Miller Family Farm, about five minutes away. Both the park and the farm are located just outside the rural Illinois town of Oakland. Oakland is approximately one hour south of Champaign-Urbana.
Campers arrive on Thursday afternoon in time to set up their campsites, eat a provided dinner and listen to Norm Wakefield’s ministry. Friday and Saturday include morning and evening ministry sessions, and afternoons packed full of outdoor activities. Sunday features a worship service and a final ministry session before camp ends at noon. Campers are welcome to attend the entire weekend, or just come for a day or two.
Father Son Camp began unofficially in 1995 when Max Miller, as a 3-year-old, asked his dad, Chris, if they could go camping for his birthday with “no girls allowed!”
What began as an overnight outing for three dads and three sons has grown to a four day event accommodating approximately 600 fathers and sons. The Chris Miller family, along with multitudes of volunteers, endeavors to strengthen the bond between fathers and sons through outdoor adventures and ignite a passion for serving Jesus Christ through inspiring ministry.
This father/son camp is an independent camp and is not associated with any other father/son camp or ministry.
Judging by the hundreds of folks lined up to shoot, the kids really loved getting a chance to shoot. We coaches cycled a whole lot of them through over four hours without any breaks. I suspect we had as much fun coaching as the kids did shooting.