connect 2018 • 20 CAMP CAMILLA I would love to go b ack to my 17 year-old self and tell her,“You’re Ir ish. And you have no idea the adventure ahead of you.” In 2006, our youth group was given the opportunity to volunteer for a week with Jean and her staff in Parkanaur Forest. Deep bonds were formed. Thanks to the vision and hard work of First Presbyterian youth leader, Harold Hall, 2012 saw 75 of us re- turn to Northern Ireland, this time volunteering at Blackwater Integrated College in Downpatrick. Connecting with this school and their outstanding principal, Dr. Olwen Griffith, was again initiated by Netta Blanchard and Brian Small, a member of the Integrated Education Fund in Belfast. In 2015, our youth group returned one more time to try out a model for an American-style sports and arts camp. This was the brainchild of Dr. Griffith and two young Texas women—Jennifer Giles and Jess Skin- ner. The goal was to encourage friendship and fun among children and youth from all backgrounds in Northern Ireland. They named it Camp Camilla. Where would we hold the camp? Would any families be interested in what we had to of- fer? And who could house our group of over 50 youth and adult volunteers? In short, Princi- pal Amanda McNamee and Lagan College, the first integrated school in Northern Ireland, took a big chance and graciously agreed to host our experiment. A cluster of brave families registered a little over 30 children for camp that first year. And dorms at Stranmillis University College became the perfect housing solution for all those Americans. The week proved to be a great success. But there were no guarantees going forward. The generosity of First Presbyterian Church could not be expected to continue full funding for such a large international project. And in fact, camp leadership was not ex- pecting them to; but then who? Don’t be shocked when I tell you that The Ireland Funds Texas lead- ership championed our cause and made both the second and third year of camp possible. In 2016, 75 campersenrolled. In2017—wehostedmorethan120 campers. This year we may have as many as 190 campers—with ever-expanding areas including culinary arts, digital media, and crafts. In conjunction with the camp in 2017, Charlene Echols, Dallas lawyer and volunteer at the first camp in 2015, created a leadership through service program for a select number of Northern Ireland and American youth. The “Kelly Campers”, named for Speedwell founder Jean Kelly, launched with 14 youth last August. How was this possible? Through the financial generosity of those Ireland Funds folks and a scholarship program honoring Mike Corboy—my Irish faerie godfather! This June, 21 young people from both countries met in Dallas to continue the program.