Largest Gift by an Individual Launches Gilmont’s Capital Campaign
The 1979 Gilmont Summer Staff team, with Spradlin pictured second from the right.
Gilmont’s Capital Campaign, “Strengthening Roots and Stretching Branches" is starting strong with a lead gift of $1.5 million made by summer staff alumni, Ronald “Ronnie” Spradlin, III - Mayor of Kilgore, Texas! The campaign is in its "Leadership Phase" - in preparation for the official launch of the Public Phase in 2024! Ronnie has deep connections with Gilmont as a staff alumni, a former board member, and a long-time supporter of the camp. He has graciously provided lumber and resources for many projects over the years.
Ronnie fondly recalls serving as an overnight camp counselor in the summer of 1979. “It was an amazing week filled with laughter and tears, as well as deep conversations about life and faith,” shared Ronnie. The theme was “Be Positive” and everyone at the camp was given 20 dry beans and if someone caught you saying something negative you had to give them one of your beans. He recalled a clever camper asking if he could build a fire in the middle of their campground - hoping that Ronnie would tell him “No” and have to give him a bean. Instead, Ronnie told the camper that he COULD build a fire – in the firepit!
Mayor Spradlin is positive that Gilmont has made a huge difference in his life and the lives of countless people that have grown closer to God, creation, others, and themselves because of their experiences at Gilmont. Ronnie says, “Gilmont has always been a sacred place where children and adults can get away and feel the presence of God.”
The generous gift aligns with Gilmont’s newly adopted strategic plan and helps launch a capital campaign that will include a new lodge with 20 hotel style rooms, new staff housing, and improvements to existing facilities. As Gilmont’s programs and partnerships have increased in recent years, these additions will increase Gilmont’s capacity to bring in larger groups as well as to host multiple smaller groups at the same time.
Mayor Spradlin has served on Gilmont’s Board of Directors in the past and with great enthusiasm shared his support for Gilmont’s future with his commitment to give 1.5 million dollars over the next few years. This lead gift is not only the largest gift that Mr. Spradlin has given to an organization; it will also be the largest financial commitment from a single donor in Gilmont’s 83 years of ministry.
While this capital campaign is still in its early stages, Gilmont has received commitments ranging from $5,000 to $150,000, in addition to Mayor Spradlin’s commitment of 1.5 million dollars. These generous commitments are sure to inspire others to give generously as Gilmont seeks to invite more guests to connect with creation, have some fun, grow in faith, and develop lifelong friendships.
Spradlin (left) pictured with his campers - ready to "BE POSITIVE" - in the summer of 1979.
Recently new campers, Caleb and Jaxon Hansel returned from the “Hearts on Fire” Summer Camp week with big smiles and full hearts. These boys continued the tradition of attending Camp Gilmont started by their great grandmother, Mary Fields, over 40 years ago. Mary served as Administrative Assistant and member of Eastminster Presbyterian Church in those days. Harry Meissner, her pastor, recruited Mary to be part of the team of volunteer counselors who spent a week each summer making sure Grace Presbytery kids could enjoy God’s creation in a Christian Camping setting. In those days, campers and counselors slept in the unairconditioned hogans and cooked two meals over a fire each day, including peach cobbler buried in the ashes in a dutch oven.
In the early 2000’s Mary made sure her granddaughter, Kristen Hansel went to Kidquakes, YouthQuakes, and Summer camp. Kristen has fond memories of camp and Co-Executive Director, Kenny Rigoulot was even her counselor one summer when she participated in Prairie Valley Canoe Camp. Kristen developed a love for being on the water that summer. She kayaks as often as possible and now her whole family kayaks together too.
This summer Kristen signed up her sons for their first camp experience at Gilmont. At the end of the week, Mary rode with Kristen to pick up her great-grandsons. Mary brought along her 40+ year old Gilmont Program Center T-shirt, and the family posed for a photo in front of the Gilmont sign before heading home. The boys talked about swimming, winning at GaGa Ball, doing sling shots, and making friends. Jaxon learned from Mary that his counselor Rose Rogers is the niece of Steve Heizer. Rose’s Uncle Steve was a camper when Mary first started volunteering as a counselor. When he was old enough, he became Mary’s co-counselor in 1982!
Now, Jaxon and Caleb are already making plans to return. Time in God’s creation, living in community, learning and playing, and sharing common experiences around faith is one way for “Hearts on Fire.”
What stories do you have to share about connections through the generations to Gilmont?
Submitted by Miatta Wilson – Gilmont Energizer, Friend of Mary Fields, and Christian Educator at Eastminster Presbyterian while Kristen was growing up.
As the Spiritual Advisor, who is an ordained minister, talks about Moses recognizing he was on Holy Ground in front of a bush that was on fire but not burning, Rufus realizes he too is on Holy Ground at Gilmont and that this is a safe, sacred place. In the evening, Rufus thinks about his first day at camp and realizes it was good.
On Monday, Rufus starts to feel homesick. His counselors tell him that it is normal to miss home, listen to what he loves about his family, and encourage him to write a letter to his loved ones. He also receives mail from home - even his pet beaver writes to him! In Bible Study, the Spiritual Advisor and counselors talk about how God heard the misery of the Israelites in Egypt, was concerned about their suffering, and sent Moses to help. Rufus agrees that God continues to notice when he is sad, cares about him, and sends people to love and support him. In the evening, Rufus thinks about his day and realizes it was good.
On Tuesday, Rufus’ family group goes to Prayer Stations and spends quiet time with God. Rufus walks the labyrinth, writes a few poetry prayers, and enjoys the sand tray meditation. He even learned a few practices that he can do at home to continue to build his relationship with God. The Spiritual Advisor and counselors talk about Exodus 3:11-17 when God reminded Moses about how God has always been by his side, is currently with him, and will continue to be with him. Rufus knows that God is always with him too and that God loves Rufus for who he is. In the evening, Rufus thinks about his day and realizes it was good.
On Wednesday, Rufus canoes Lake Kilgore with his family group, hits the target at Archery, and even throws his discs into the basket at Disc Golf. He feels accomplished in his newfound skills. In Bible Study, the group talks about how Moses was uniquely qualified and skilled to be the one who led the Israelites out of Egypt, even though he doubted himself. Rufus became even more excited about the talent show so he can show off how skilled he is too! Everyone laughs and cheers him on during his stand up comedy routine on aquatic life, which makes Rufus proud. In the evening, Rufus thinks about his day and realizes it was good.
By Thursday, Rufus has bonded with his family group and cabin mates. He makes them all friendship bracelets (and, of course, a melty-bead octopus for himself) during Arts and Crafts. During Bible Study, the Spiritual Advisor and Counselors talk about how God sent Aaron to be by Moses’ side to support him when he was worried. Rufus thinks about all the loved ones in his life, both at home and at camp, who loved and cared for him. In the evening, Rufus thinks about his day and realizes it was good.
On Friday, Rufus can’t believe it is already the last day of camp. He is excited to see his family, but is sad to leave his friends and counselors. The Spiritual Advisor and counselors talk about all the good things Moses and Aaron did when they left the mountain top. Rufus realizes that he can’t stay at camp forever and that God is sending him back home to show love, encouragement, and care to others. He knows he was brave this week at camp as he tried new things and he feels inspired to go home to do more big, brave things. His counselors also help him remember that God is present everywhere he goes and that Camp Gilmont is not the only Holy Ground in his life. As Rufus leaves camp, he thinks about the week he had and realizes it was good. He can’t wait to rest tomorrow!