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Olympic-Sized Faith pg2

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"Seeing the kids here; I don't know how to describe it, but I left feeling very overwhelmed," admits Shelley-Ann. "The Dominican Republic is a really, really poor place. But the kids are so full of everything kids should be full of. And they're so free with it. They have such love and joy, and their laughter-they shared it. I was so blessed to have been there."

She and my mother made plans during the visit to translate Camp Edify into a program for her ministry in the Dominican Republic. Shelley-Ann will take a key, prominent role in the programming, logistics, and resourcing of this special initiative.

"Camp Edify is an amazing thing," she says. "I know I'm the founder but I've always felt like I was just kind of there while it was just happening. It was definitely a God thing and not a Shelley thing. There are many, many stories I could tell to testify to that. I saw a need. I wanted these kids to not just have sports camps and church camps; there was a need for kids to just be kids. They're losing their childhood at a faster rate every day. There needed to be something that was holistic and addressed the complete child. That's how camp Edify came to be. It's a place to bridge the gap between school and doing nothing. 'Edify' stands for Education and Direction for Intelligent and Fit Youth. It included sports, nutritional, spiritual, and social aspects as well. It's always been in my heart to have that same concept overseas as well."

Camp Edify was initially designed to meet kids' basic needs while providing them with a positive and faith-centered social experience. A basic day at Camp Edify begins at 8:30, but doors open at 7 to accommodate working parents. The day kicks off with the camp theme song. Counselors introduce the weekly theme in the form of a skit-for instance, the Hives Detective Agency with bee detectives searching for all their "attitudes." The camp provides healthy snacks, educational programming, and a hot lunch program. The afternoons are filled with organized play, arts and crafts, sports, swimming, more snacks, and a closing.

The result of Shelley-Ann's partnership with my mother is exciting and holds great benefits for the impoverished children my mother ministers to.

"I'll provide the daily programs for the camp and customize them for the kids down here," says Shelley-Ann. "Down here the needs are different. The education will be different. I can help train the leaders here so they can continue-and spread-the program on their own."

In addition to great social experiences, faith-infused lessons, and healthy food, Shelly-Ann wants kids to leave Camp Edify with the sense that they have a purpose and a calling.

"My message is 'Pushing Hard, Driving Well, and Having Joy,' " she says. "It's what my team focused on during the two weeks of the Olympics. We had to focus on what we could control. I wanted to make the Olympic team. I wanted to be a medalist. But I knew that was not under my control. You have to get picked. So I decided to be the best Shelley-Ann I could be. If that Shelley-Ann didn't make the team, at least I knew I was the best I could be. Kids understand that."

"I'm glad I have the medal; it's a symbol," she continues. "But the journey is my reward. I wouldn't have thought I could accomplish some of the things I've done this year, but I did and now I know what I'm capable of. I cultivated a discipline I didn't think I had. I found an endurance that I didn't think was possible for me. I was stronger than I thought was. God showed me a lot about myself on the journey. I believe he will do the same for every child, and I want Camp Edify to be part of that."

"I plan to do one more season in the athletic world," says Shelley-Ann when I asked about her goals for the future. "I'd love to have a nice season. Our goal is to win at World Cups this year and win at World Championships. And I'd like to continue with public speaking, inspiring and motivating others. But my big goal right now is to get Camp Edify established for Ambassadors of Christ here in the Dominican Republic." There's a pause as the ambitious athlete ponders for a moment her expanding dream. "We really need to get three going, not just one." cm

Emily Springfield plays percussion and sings on a ministry worship team when she's not working to spread the word about Ambassadors of Christ.

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