In 1978, Joe White of Kanakuk Kamps, Inc., the largest family of Christian sports camps in America, started giving the last week of Kamp in the summer to serve the camping needs of urban youth.
The I’m Third Foundation, a non-profit organization, was birthed out of this need and eventually the demand for a camp dedicated to serving urban youth and inner-city adult leaders became so great that the first Kids Across America Kamp was built.
It was completed and opened in 1991 and in 1995 KAA II was opened adjacent to KAA I. The number of young people and inner-city leaders served has grown every year. This demand led to the opening of a leadership training camp, called Higher Ground, in 1998, and a fourth camp, KAA III, in the summer of 2001. In September of 2000, the I’m Third Foundation was renamed Kids Across America Foundation (KAA).
This summer, thanks to generous donations, we were able to take those of our boys ranging from 10 years of age to 18 years of age to Kids Across America’s session four camp. Going to KAA has been a tradition of HOPE Farm since I was 10 years old. As a camper, I was met with high energy and the love of Christ from people who were not that much older than myself. I had never before seen so many young people openly and unashamedly giving God praise. We were divided into cabins of 10 with two KAA counselors. Those counselors poured into each and every one of us every chance that they could. Through these interactions during my first experiences at KAA I, I decided to give my life to Christ.
This past summer, I returned to KAA – 15 years later – for the first time since I graduated the Higher Ground program in 2009 not as a camper but as a Kaleo. Kaleo’s are the pastors, ministry leaders, or adult representatives of the camper(s) that have been brought to KAA from his/her organization. We were greeted by KAA’s Kaleo shepherds with the exact same energy and love that I had experienced my very first year at KAA. The most famous line and experience that the Kaleo Shepherds wanted us to have was “A bubble bath in Jesus,” and a bubble bath in Jesus is just what it felt like.
To be back in the beautiful woods and hills of Golden, Missouri, was breathtaking. The air was clean and fresh, the campus was nice and secluded, and in the evening you could clearly see the stars that lit up the night sky. On top of the natural beauties of Golden, we were engaged everyday by the staff of KAA. From Bible studies and praise and worship to zip lining and talent shows – the excitement never ceased.
One of the best parts about returning to KAA was seeing some of my old fellow campers and mentors. There is nothing like seeing the good work and growth in Christ in someone you love.
I am glad that I had an opportunity to return to where “it all began” for my Christian walk, and I look forward to being reconnected with my KAA family again.
HOPE Farm believes that emphasizing the quality of care to a small number will make the biggest difference in the long term.