by Toni Poteres
Christ said whoever believes in him should pick up his cross and follow him. This year at Fanari Camp, the Metropolis of Chicago’s annual youth camp, almost 400 campers did just that, as the Metropolis has embraced a new ministry. Pick Up Your Cross and Follow Me is a ministry for youth with special needs and their families. The aim is the inclusion of these children and of their families as well as providing an environment in which they feel comfortable and can learn about our faith.
Three campers participated in Pick Up Your Cross and Follow Me at Fanari. A day program was run for them on Friday which interacted with all Fanari campers, counselors, staff, and clergy. From Thursday night’s ’80s theme dance to saying emotional goodbyes on Saturday, these campers were able to see what it is like to participate in the Metropolis camping program, something they had never been able to do before. These campers were able to participate in Fanari camp worships, be with fellow campers, and make friends.
On Friday at Fanari, something extraordinary came over the camp. Being a family ministry, the parents of Pick Up Your Cross and Follow Me campers were invited to experience camp with their child. Two of the campers had siblings participating in Fanari and they were very excited to be able to join them. The presence that these three campers brought to Fanari was indescribable. Seeing how Fanari campers went out of their way to make three children with special needs feel welcome brought their parents to tears.
The entire camp participated in preparing awareness ribbons for Inclusion Awareness Month which our Metropolis honors throughout the month of October. Fanari and Pick Up Your Cross and Follow Me helped make purple ribbons, the color that represents special needs, and wore those ribbons the entire day. It was amazing to see almost 500 campers and staff celebrating a cause and welcoming families that they had just met hours before.
Pick Up Your Cross and Follow Me is growing and constantly looking for more participants and volunteers. Please keep in mind our next major event, a day camp at St. Iakovos Retreat Center with the theme, “Follow The Yellow Brick Road to Christ” on October 29, 2011. For more information or camper applications, please contact the Metropolis of Chicago Youth Office at: (312) 337-4130 or visit: www.chicago.goarch.org