Camp preps a year-round job

By Errol Castens | NEMS Daily Journal

OXFORD – One expects the woods around Camp Hopewell to ring with young, enthusiastic voices. On Saturday, however, labor and laughter combined in the midst of autumn’s glory.
Eighty-six pledges and upperclassmen of Alpha Tau Omega fraternity at the University of Mississippi and other volunteers spent Saturday morning in service, clearing undergrowth in several acres of woods.
Stacks of brush and the several acres of undergrowth the young men cleared were a reminder that camp preparations are a year-round endeavor.
“These boys are just about worn out,” Bill Sloan said. “They’ve been working themselves pretty hard.”
One place where the ATO team’s effect was most obvious was the newly cleared vista from a narrow ridge overlooking the upper lake, where a few benches and an altar designate a worship site.
“They did in a few hours what would have taken me a month working by myself,” site director Darren Ashmore said.
After hours of wielding axes, pruners, chain saws and just plain brute force to open vistas on the north shore of the camp’s upper lake, the young men had just enough energy left to take turns swinging from a grapevine that propelled them 10 feet or more above the steep hillside.
ATO philanthropy chair Bill Dickerson said the group will do several community service projects this year.
“It’s great to give back to the community that puts up with so much from students at Ole Miss,” he said. “Our money doesn’t go anywhere outside of Oxford.”
Yet another of the group’s works also will benefit the camp. ATO will volunteer with Oxford Run for Hope, whose first two years have attracted more than 1,200 runners and raised more than $60,000 for Camp Hopewell’s diabetes camp sessions. The 2012 run will be staged Feb. 25.
The diabetes camp “teaches these kids how to manage [the disease] for themselves, to be more independent and to be in control while they have the opportunity to do things like any other normal kid,” Lynn Sloan said. “If you watch the kids, you’ll walk away with a smile that lasts for weeks.”
For more information, visit www.camphopewell.com or www.oxfordrun4hope.com.
errol.castens@journalinc.com