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Building “Strong Kids” through Servant Leadership

March is the kick-off of Camp Jorn YMCA’s annual Strong Kids Campaign.  This campaign raises funds from the many friends of Camp Jorn in order to ensure that any child, regardless of ability to pay, will have the opportunity to engage in a Camp Jorn experience.

You may know about Strong Kids, because you’ve given to the campaign in the past, or even because you’ve received scholarship dollars through this fundraiser.  What you may not know is that this is one of the most important things we do here at Camp Jorn.  Of course, our program is important, as is hiring an excellent staff, following licensing and ACA standards, ensuring the safety of all who come to Camp Jorn, and creating opportunities for kids and families to grow, learn, and recognize and develop value in themselves and in the world around them.  But if we didn’t have Strong Kids, Camp Jorn would be missing an essential component to fulfilling its mission.

More than 20% of CJ campers receive some form of assistance through the Strong Kids Campaign.  It’s vital that we provide these scholarships, because camp is for ALL kids.  Whether a family has fallen on hard times, or the camp experience is just too much of a luxury that summer, or funds are being saved for something else, we know that everyone needs a hand up at some time to make sure their kids have camp in their lives!

The Strong Kids Campaign is one of the most important ways that we who are a part of Camp Jorn can be “servant leaders.”  According to Robert K. Greenleaf, founder of the Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership in Carmel, Indiana, The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is a leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions…The leader-first and the servant-first are two extreme types. Between them there are shadings and blends that are part of the infinite variety of human nature.

Greenleaf goes on to say, “The difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant-first to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served. The best test, and difficult to administer, is: Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? And, what is the effect on the least privileged in society? Will they benefit or at least not be further deprived?

This is the essence of what we do at camp.  We have to ask ourselves, “Do those served grow as persons?  Do they become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?”

They’re great questions to ask ourselves every day of our lives.  It’s a huge, but worthy, challenge to become, and help others to become, servant leaders in every way.