Details of this story were captured by Gilmont staff during an interview with Mickey in 2008.
Following a fire that had demolished most of the Gilmont dining hall in the late 1980s, a volunteer mission work crew out of Angleton, Texas came to rebuild. At that time, Mickey Melton served on the Board for Gilmont and he visited with the men about their commitment to take time away from work and home to rebuild - and on top of that, their work was during an East Texas torrential rain storm that lasted for days!
Years later, Mickey recalled their response, “We are working on a wheelchair ramp and a building that is handicap accessible! We can just imagine the special needs children who will one day need a place like Gilmont, so we are committed to completing the construction of this building before we go home!”
Mickey explained that at the time, he knew Gilmont had no camp for special needs children, no programmer to plan such a camp, and no experience doing anything like this. He was left wondering and praying about what might happen at Gilmont one day for these children. Sometime later, Mickey felt a call on his heart to visit with Margo Dewkett, then Executive Director of Windridge Therapeutic Equestrian Center, a local nonprofit facility for children with developmental disabilities asking if they were aware of unmet needs. Immediately, Margo and Laura Buckner, a parent and community resource for special needs families, identified the need for a safe place for families to gather. The parents needed respite care, children with special needs and their siblings needed a place to just be kids, be accepted and have fun together. And, in 1997 the idea of Circle of Friends Camps was born!
The hearts of the Gilmont board members had been prepared by God through the work of those volunteers from Angleton years before to say YES to the concept immediately! Money was donated by the individual board members and the Trull Foundation to cover expenses for the first camp. And the rest is history!
Over the years, the camp has grown to be a Gilmont anchor ministry - with four camps per year. Gilmont funds the camps in a variety of ways - individuals, foundations, contracts for respite services and special events like the Mickey Melton Memorial Golf Tournament. No family has ever been asked to pay to attend, although some with the means have donated. We continue to be amazed at what this retreat means to those engaged in the ministry!
We thank God for the vision of Circle of Friends that was planted in these individuals and the commitment that Mickey had to seeing the vision take shape into a reality that continues to serve so many!
Go to www.mickeymelton.com to learn more about the 12th Annual Mickey Melton Memorial Golf Tournament!