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!
This is the time of year when we send out giving statements to our donors along with notes about how their partnership with Gilmont is transforming lives.
Philip and Dotty Smith show up as volunteers, retreaters, and most recently one of our Battle of the Bags SWISH Underwriters! Gilmont has been special to Dotty since she was a young child. Her story as a lifelong camper and donor, inspired us and we hope it will inspire you too!
After more than sixty years of the Camp Gilmont experience, it’s hard to sum up in a few words what Gilmont means to me. Mostly what comes to mind is the feeling of “Family” in the Piney Woods of East Texas. At an early preschool age, our Dallas church Family made the trip one weekend out of the year to worship, fellowship, and relax among the tall pines, with the fresh outdoor smells and sounds, and the starry nights. The closest to Heaven I felt we could live on Earth! As a summer camper at Camp Gilmont from elementary through high school age, the focus was on our Family groups, making new friends and sharing in outdoor cooking, hiking, and Bible Study, all highlights of my week at camp. Always surrounded by Gilmont’s beauty.
Keeping it in the Family, my father’s love of Camp Gilmont influenced my decision to volunteer as a camp counselor during my college summers. For many, many years, my father took several weeks of his vacation time to be a volunteer counselor and camp director. In those days, both the adult counselors and weekly camp director were strictly volunteer from churches all over the Northeast Texas Presbytery. He LOVED Camp Gilmont! So, I got to still get to go to camp, and share my love of Camp Gilmont with a new generation of campers, still in a Family Camp setting.
And today, as an older adult, it still feels like I am coming home to “Family” when I return each year for the annual Women’s Conference. Just getting to renew my experiences, surrounded by the same tall pines, sights, smells, and sounds, along with the fellowship and the spiritual inspiration during this special weekend, I know will keep Gilmont close in my heart and memory for many years to come. Nothing could be more special than Camp Gilmont.
Do you have a Gilmont story to share? We would love to hear it! Email firstname.lastname@example.org to share your story.
By Ryan Snitzer, current Board Member and past Camp Counselor
You’re never too old for camp!
This summer I put that to the test, serving as a volunteer counselor and reliving my glory days dunking campers and playing giants, wizards and elves. Fortunately, this time I was staying in a lodge room - otherwise I may not have survived the week as my energetic self on coffee alone!
A week at Gilmont was all I could have asked for and more. It was spiritually refreshing to see campers of mine years ago now serving as counselors, leading campers in energizers, bible study, and endless camp activities. They were continuing to pay it forward, by giving back their time and heart to a place we all cherish.
In the craziness of this world, we often long to go back to the thin places where we can be closer to God. With constant life changes, we may feel like we’re too busy or far away to be able to enjoy a week, let alone a weekend at Gilmont.
The truth is that camp never leaves us. I know I speak for so many of us in saying that Gilmont is a part of who we are. It’s a part of our faith journey. It’s a part of helping us grow closer to God, creation, others, and ourselves.
You don’t have to be physically present at Gilmont to continue to be a part of its mission. In fact, I’ve found that the work I do outside of Gilmont’s walls to further its mission makes me love it that much more. It makes coming home to camp even more meaningful when I see the campers buying into the summer’s theme, Gushers of God’s Love.
God has definitely been at work sowing seeds at Gilmont these last few years through the pandemic. And He has even greater things ahead!
Although Gilmont’s physical location remains a safe, sacred space for everyone, we are all a part of its broader community beyond the piney woods of East Texas. That community takes place in deeply personal ways whether its Circle of Friends, summer camp, retreats, or a rental group visiting for the first time.
Wherever you are in life, I’d challenge you to consider the unique opportunities you have to give back to Gilmont to further its mission. If you’re like me, that decision to say “yes” will give back a hundred times over.
I hope you’ll join us in praying, giving, and participating at Gilmont this fall. Whether it’s joining the Battle of the Bags on October 8th, inviting a friend to a camp or retreat, or supporting its ministry financially by becoming a monthly energizer, God has a place for each of us at Gilmont.
Yes, Gilmont needs you! Gilmont needs all of us.