Silver Foxes, eating healthy, keeping active all part of our Retirement Living section.
Camp to create leaders for life
A new pro-life camp for teens will cover abortion, stem-cell research and euthanasia.
As textbooks close and summer stretches ahead, many high schoolers anticipate weekday matinees, sleeping in and poolside lounging, as well as that summertime staple: camp. Along with sports and Scouting, Bible and band, local teens now have the opportunity to add a pro-life leadership camp to the mix.
Camp Joshua, held in Staunton Aug. 3-5, is sponsored by the Virginia Society for Human Life and the Life and Leadership Youth Camp Initiative, developed in part through National Right to Life. The camp is based on a model used in a number of states, including Texas, Louisiana and New York.
Olivia Gans Turner, president of the Virginia Society for Human Life and a parishioner of St. Timothy Parish in Chantilly, said the three-day program was developed in part as a response to young people’s growing, enthusiastic commitment to the pro-life movement. She said it’s the first camp of its kind in Virginia.
Young people are the largest group of self-identified pro-lifers right now, said Gans Turner. “There has been a groundswell of support as they’ve witnessed the harmful effects of a culture of death that surrounds them.”
Youths care deeply about life issues, and they want to play a role in whatever way they can, she said.
Camp Joshua organizers hope the camp will give teens the tools they need not only to be informed, articulate and compassionate but also courageous.
“Universally, high school is a time of conformity, and it’s really hard to break out and express individual beliefs,” said Megan McCrum, camp coordinator. “It’s one thing to believe something in your heart and another thing to talk about it. It can be a little intimidating.
“We want to give them greater courage to be able to speak out even in environments that are not friendly — especially in college — where so many abortions take place.”
Many young Catholics may be pro-life because of their faith, noted McCrum, but the camp, which is open to high schoolers of all faiths, addresses life issues from a human rights perspective, enabling teens to more effectively engage with people who may come from a different or no faith tradition.
The camp will include workshops, small-group discussions, simulated conversations and skits, and provide scientific, historical and legal information on abortion, stem-cell research and euthanasia.
Abortion 101 will describe the stages of fetal development and the different types of abortion, and euthanasia will be discussed using real-life examples of assisted suicide.
Campers will hear the latest science on fetal and adult stem cells, McCrum said. “In general pop culture, accurate information does not get out — the science is not presented. So we want to debunk the myths.”
Gans Turner will lead a workshop called “When They Say, You Say,” which will help teens respond to pro-abortion arguments and reactions.
The talk “teaches them what the most effective language is and how to hear concerns in a way that enlightens but does not push away,” said Gans Turner.
McCrum hopes teens will see how women also are victims of abortion and that to be pro-life is not to attack women who have had or are considering an abortion, but to speak to them with compassion.
Melissa Ohden, who survived an abortion, and Gans Turner, who had an abortion, will share how abortion has shaped their lives. Gans Turner plans to describe what goes on in many women’s minds when they are considering an abortion.
Campers will be of voting age soon, and the goal is to encourage them take an active role in the political dialogue. But another major focus of the camp is to help teens learn how to talk about pro-life issues with their peers. Gans Turner said that a peer is often the first person a teen comes in contact with regarding abortion.
High school senior Julia Hall, a parishioner of Holy Trinity Parish in Gainesville who will attend the camp, believes teens have a unique opportunity to be pro-life leaders through peer-to-peer interactions.
“It’s easier to hear things from somebody who knows you and understands you,” she said. “It can be intimidating to go to an adult.”
There also will be plenty of recreation time and opportunities for the teens to form friendships. There will be “lots of pizza and downtime,” said Gans Turner, along with campfires, a scavenger hunt and swimming.
Perhaps most importantly, Gans Turner hopes teens will come away from Camp Joshua with “a sense of their purpose in the movement and their importance to it” and understand the preciousness of their own lives.
“They are alive now, when, frankly, many of their peers were not allowed that.”
“To be asked to do this work is truly a labor of love,” she said. “You can’t undervalue the joy that comes with changing a culture of death into a culture of life.”