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Grants at Work: Camp Sycamore Creek

by Faith Krogulecki / Nashville Predators

Every summer, children all over Middle Tennessee benefit from Nashville Predators Foundation grants. Children at Camp Sycamore Creek and Youth Encouragement Services (YES) are just a few of the examples from the hundreds.

In May, the Predators Foundation awarded Camp Sycamore Creek a grant to fund one of the six teepees that helps provide an authentic camp experience to children.

“Camp Sycamore Creek is a camp that started back in 1968 and it’s a camp that really was started with YES,” Camp Sycamore Creek Director Brandon Stakelbeck said. “The camp really ministers to inner-city kids, so that kids that may not have an ability to go out into the woods can have a camp-kind of experience. It has a lot of amenities, but mostly it’s just to get away from the city and the concrete.”

The grounds consist of a ropes course, a basketball and sand volleyball court, a large campfire pit, playgrounds, hiking trails, a large creek for swimming and plenty of outdoor spots for quiet time, classes and devotionals. All of these amenities help to fulfill the camp’s mission statement: to enrich people’s lives by providing them a nature experience to help with their physical, mental and spiritual growth.

This week, children from YES were attending the camp; both organizations have similar values and purposes and each have been direct beneficiaries of the Predators Foundation.

YES, an organization that offers educational and recreational programs after school, on weekends and during summer break for low-income children, gives them a positive alternative to the streets and opportunities for a bright future.

“This community is great for these kids,” Stakelbeck said. “It takes not just one organization, but a city that says, ‘Hey, I care about what our youth are doing and where they are.’ With the Predators coming out, they’re just saying, ‘We care about these kids too.’ It’s kind of cliche, but these kids really are the future of Nashville.”

Camp Sycamore Creek’s grant helped bring an authentic teepee to the campgrounds; a teepee that features hand-carved wood from Colorado and a painted, cowhide exterior.

“Kids don’t have that kind of opportunity to see a real teepee,” Stakelbeck said. “We use it as a small group area for group discussions and to sleep in overnight, but just having that experience, that’s part of the authenticity of it and then it just gives us more meeting space.”

“The teepee definitely adds a ‘smile factor’ to camp,” Center Director at St. Luke’s YES Will Price said. “This is something brand new that half of them have never seen before. When you come out here, it’s the first thing you see. It’s something that flips a switch in a kid’s mind to say, ‘We are no longer in the city.’ It definitely adds to the experience.”

Annually, more than 500 people of all different ages use the camp - providing the opportunity to spend a week in a safe, positive environment.

“Watching Gnash walk around and watching a parade of children pouring out of these cabins to come hug him, that’s one thing that makes this team so special - their influence,” Price said. “Also, the mere mention that anybody from the Predators was coming made everyone gasp with delight this morning.”

Gnash has visited his friends at Camp Sycamore Creek before, after they had received a Foundation grant in 2010 to build “Fort GNASH” a wooden play structure with slides, ladders and a swing set. Price said the contribution the team made to construct the playset years ago is such a necessity to the property to this day. He’s positive the teepee will have the same impact.

“It’s a magnet,” Price said. “Kids are drawn to the teepee because it just screams fun and it’s something they don’t get to experience every day. It definitely enhances their camp experience. It’s great that the Predators are coming out here and being such a part of this because without the funding and the donations they’ve supplied, this camp experience would be less significant. I really appreciate all that they’ve done.”

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