Centura Health has discovered that the shortest route to the hearts of its employees is through their children. In 2001, Centura leaders committed to sponsoring its employees’ children to attend camp at Glacier View Ranch for a week each summer at reduced rates.

The timing was perfect. The Diabetes Association, which had reserved time at GVR each summer for diabetic campers, had just begun using a different facility, leaving a spot open for a new summer camp program. Centura and GVR leaders recognized this opportunity, and Friendship Camp was born. Initially Centura campers, from juniors to teens, attended a special week of summer camp set aside for them.

In 2005, Centura merged Friendship Camp with GVR’s other camps and began sponsoring Centura kids to attend with other GVR campers their own age during regularly scheduled camp weeks. As a result, more Centura kids began taking advantage of the program, which led to increased resources and expanded programming for GVR, which in turn benefited everyone. It’s no surprise that Centura leaders receive more positive feedback about this program than any other program they provide for their employees and associates.

“This has been a huge success,” shares Kirk King, coordinator of the Friendship Camp program. “We’ve seen growth nearly every year.”

During the 2015 summer camp season, 168 Centura Friendship campers attended GVR. At the end of each week, all campers and parents responded to a survey created by King to identify demographics and to measure satisfaction levels with various camp features, including programming.

This year, just 15 percent of the Centura employees who completed the survey identified themselves as Seventh-day Adventists, while 39 percent of combined Centura and non-Centura respondents identified as Adventist. At the other end of the spectrum, 21 percent of all respondents identified either as non-Christian or as having no spiritual affiliation overall, while 42 percent identified as Catholic or other protestant.

King believes that the high attendance of non-Adventist and non-Christian campers was largely due to Centura employees inviting their neighbors, as well as of former and non-sponsored Centura employees sending their children to camp at regular rates. Overall, 95 percent responded that the spiritual programming was “very good,” “awesome,” or “interesting”—a remarkably high rating considering the high percentage of campers coming from non-Adventist and non-Christian backgrounds. Approximately 10 percent of Centura campers indicated that they would like to know more about Jesus, while just 5 percent indicated that they did not care about the lessons they learned about Jesus at camp. Altogether, the statistics indicate a tremendous, ongoing opportunity for outreach.

“One of the coolest things about it,” shares King, “is that I get campers telling me at the end of the week that Sabbath was their favorite day of the week. And this is coming from kids who have no spiritual background. This is about giving kids opportunities to experience Jesus. It’s about planting spiritual seeds.”

Many of the parents expressed their appreciation in the comments section of the survey:

“This was our daughter’s first sleep-away experience and she LOVED it! She’s already talking about next year! Thank you for taking such good care of her!”

“This camp was fantastic for our children! They unplugged and became more in touch with their inner souls. We appreciate the opportunity to be part of this program. Thank you so much!”

“Thank you so much for making a positive difference in the spiritual lives of my kids.”

“Our kids really enjoyed camp this year. It was the best year so far.… They had a blast, and can’t wait to go next year! Thank you to the Centura leadership for sponsoring our kids through the Friendship Camp scholarship!”

What started out as an opportunity to enrich the lives of Centura employees’ children ultimately blessed Glacier View Ranch, as well as other campers from the Rocky Mountain Conference. From everyone’s perspective, it’s a win-win.

This article was submitted by Stephen King, senior vice president for the Rocky Mountain Adventist Health/Centura Health, where he serves the five Adventist hospital campuses in Colorado. It was written by Mark Bond.