Columbia, SC (WLTX) – A kids camp is helping to build future leaders and the confidence of the campers it's open to.
It stretches across a massive 17 acre property where kids are given plenty of space to learn to shape their future by learning from their past.
Usually when summer hits, kids camps open their doors, but at the rivers edge summer retreat, their doors are open year 'round.
"The big word here is empathy," said Tierra Gardner, a 13-year-old at the camp who had taken on a leadership role. "At first it was the opportunity to get service hours, but being here now, I realize that's not the only thing I came here for."
In fact, the soon-to-be high school freshman planned an entire week's activity. Friday's theme was a luau.
About 7,000 kids come to the camp each year, said the Founder and CEO, Steve Ware.
"In the morning we learn and they teach you math and history," said Hannah Curtis-Mann, a 10-year-old camper. "It will kind of get you ready for the next school year so you'll learn."
Though lessons are taught at the retreat all year, for 10 weeks, for each of the past four summers, campers have taken full advantage of tennis and basketball courts, as well as a large learning-center.
But the camp may be just a bit different from other camps, because they do accept kids from various backgrounds, but they also work with kids with difficult home lives, as well," said Ware, who admits he comes from a troubled background and says he was homeless when he was just 14-years-old.
Now a successful businessman,Ware has invested his own money in getting the camp off the ground.
"In the last four summers, it's just grown way out of my vision because there's such a need for it," Ware said.
A bus even transports kids to camp some mornings for a central message.
"Whether it's a wealthy family, or a family that doesn't really exist, that somebody believes in you," Ware said.
That message was being well-received by the campers.
"It feels like you're a part of the whole family because you're just welcomed," Hannah said.
Ware said the camp is taking on many partnerships, including various school districts in the area.
You can visit their website for more information: http://riversedgeretreat.org/