Same camp, new look

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 3, 2015

By Melanie Ruberti
LaGRANGE — Some campers are making a big splash out at Camp Viola this summer. The sounds of children’s screams and laughter could be heard down the winding, dirt road that leads onto camp grounds – and directly next to the new in-ground pool. “We get to swim after a very hot day,” said camper Colvin Youmans, 11. A long line snaked around the most popular place at the pool as children waited their turn to go down the slippery slide into the cool, blue water. It was hard to tell who was more excited about the new pool, the campers or the counselors. “The pool has been touched by God because it’s amazing,” exclaimed counselor Veronica Prince. “It’s sparkling … it’s so much better than the lake. The lake is cool, but the pool is so much cooler.” “The pool is beautiful,” said Camp Viola board Chairman Kevin Stringham. “It definitely adds a new element of fun here. It’s the first thing kids notice when they walk onto the campus. It brings some new excitement to camp this year.” The pool wasn’t the only change made to the Camp Viola campus this year. The organization also expanded its chapel from just 50 seats to 120 seats, repaired the stone chimney in the main hall, bought new kitchen appliances, plus added a low ropes course for team-building exercises. “You go through the woods and each element out there is designed for a group of kids to work together to accomplish whatever the task is … balancing, getting the whole team into one place,” explained Stringham. “It’s designed for them to work together, rather than each individual to be successful.” Stringham said all the new changes to Camp Viola, a United Way agency, were funded by the Callaway Foundation to the tune of $267,000. The camp provides children who might not experience a camp setting because their families can’t afford it, among other reasons. Stringham said it is Camp Viola’s mission to provide children around Troup County with a place to play and grow spiritually, plus develop a relationship with Jesus Christ. For one week out of the summer, groups of children can let their worries fall away and focus on being a kid. “We get to do crafts and I like learning martial arts,” said camper Elayna Lawson, 10. Prince has been a counselor at Camp Viola for at least five years. She said the new additions haven’t detracted from the true meaning behind the camp. ”It gives us more one-on-one time,” she explained. “The kids want to explore, they want to swim, they want to go to the chapel more and go on hikes. So it gives us more time to be with them and pour into them.” “We’re learning about Abraham and Psalms and the Bible,” said Youmans. “They’ve been teaching us a lot of stuff.” Stringham said they are expecting between 500 and 600 children to walk through the gates of Camp Viola this summer. While the scenery may have changed, the volunteers assured the mission will remain the same. “Each year there is a kid or two that I really connect with, and I know that’s the Lord’s sovereignty,” said Prince.

Melanie Ruberti is a reporter at LaGrange Daily News. She may be reached at 706-884-7311, ext. 2156.

Melanie Ruberti | Daily News A camper gets ready to go down the slide attached to the new in-ground pool at Camp Viola. The pool is one of many changes at the campsite.

Melanie Ruberti | Daily News Children from Hogansville Elementary School enjoy the new in-ground pool at Camp Viola. The kids are spending the week out at campgrounds.

Melanie Ruberti | Daily News Construction on the pool started back in February of 2015. In addition to the slide, workers also built a pavilion next to the pool complete with benches, bathrooms, plus a fence that surrounds the entire area.

Melanie Ruberti | Daily News In addition to the pool, Camp Viola board chairman, Kevin Stringham, said the organization added on to their chapel, which used to sit just 50 people. It will now fit 120. The group also bought new kitchen appliances, restored the stone chimney in the main hall, and created a low ropes course designed for team building exercises.