In 1999 Sunshine was running urban programming in the Cabrini Green neighborhood led by Executive Director Dana Thomas. They also owned a campground in Union, MI which afforded many opportunities for staff to take youth to camp events. However, running both locations was proving to be difficult. Thomas attended a camp fair at Moody Bible Institute where Joel and Paula were attending. At the time the young couple had been praying about starting a camp for urban youth and so this providential meeting led to more conversations and eventually hiring Hamernick to run the camp.
From 1999 to 2003, the Hamernick family lived at the campground, hosting many groups, renovating and restoring much of the property, and building a solid foundation of hospitality and community. They recall these early days very fondly, as one that established a strong calling and commitment to serving the youth of Chicago and inviting others into the journey of urban ministry.
In 2001 Thomas left Sunshine and Joel was hired full-time as the Executive Director. The family officially relocated to Chicago eventually landing in the Woodlawn neighborhood and diving into holistic ministry as a family. Joel and Paula led both the Chicago location and the camp, though as the Chicago ministry grew, it became untenable to continue running both. In 2009 the Sunshine Board made the difficult decision to sell the camp in Union, MI to invest in further sustainability of the Chicago location.
Even though Sunshine no longer owned the campground, they continued to stay committed to offering youth summer camp experiences. In recent years they have partnered with Kids Across America (KAA) and YoungLife to send our youth to their summer camps. In the words of Joel, “Each year at Sunshine we look forward to summer camp. And it’s not just because we’re weary from cold snaps and single-digit weather. It’s because we know that summer camp is such a critical place where God speaks to young people’s hearts. While they are excited about outdoor adventures and fun camping games, we watch with great anticipation for those moments of ‘epiphany’. Sometimes it comes through a fireside chat, a morning devotional, or even a game of pickup basketball. Whichever way it happens, it’s always astounding to witness the words of the Gospel becoming real in the life of a young person.”
We are excited to come back to the beginning of the Hamernick’s first love, camp, in establishing a Legacy Fund in their honor that will allow us to continue to invest in the camp experience for our youth.
This summer we are hoping to take 50 youth to away camps. We are 1/3 of the way to our goal of raising $25K. Will you help make it possible for our youth to experience the joys of camp!?
If you would like to give to The Hamernick Legacy Camp Fund, please visit the link here.