By Kim Meyer-Webb | Photography by Sarah Oden | Hair & Makeup by Suzy Balkman with Bristle + Balm | Wardrobe from Kristin Chase | Shot on location at Camp Aldersgate
“I have so much fun at Camp Aldersgate. I like sleeping in a cabin with my friends. I like doing arts and crafts.” – Grace Glasbrenner
Nestled on 100 acres in the heart of the Capital City, Camp Aldersgate remains a beacon for families and a more equitable future for all Arkansans. Established in 1947 as a safe space for interracial fellowship and camaraderie, it evolved to meet the needs of the community – providing environmental education as well as specialty camps and drug + substance abuse recovery programs.
Elizabeth Glasbrenner serves on the Camp Aldersgate Board of Directors and encourages everyone to consider the inclusive nature of the organization’s legacy. “Our current campaign to improve the Aldersgate Adventure Area honors the values of Camp Aldersgate.” With a steadfast vision of a barrier-free future for all individuals: love, acceptance, collaboration and innovation are a few of the hallmarks. Aldersgate Adventure Area features a multi-purpose pavilion that is utilized for team-building activities as well as arts and crafts projects. “Within this master plan for future growth, we look forward to creating better accessibility for our challenge course. As outdoor enthusiasts, this project has a special place in our hearts.”
Grace has a rare intractable epilepsy disorder; she requires intensive and constant attention. Elizabeth elaborates, “Our daughter has dozens of seizures a day and we cannot let her be alone in any capacity. Camp Aldersgate provides a respite for us and continues to open opportunities for Grace that promote independence and a sense of accomplishment.”
Today, Camp Aldersgate offers social services to more than 1,700 individuals. Summer camps are hosted for children with specific medical conditions including muscular dystrophy, spina bifida, diabetes, cardiac conditions, arthritis, kidney conditions, asthma, cancer and bleeding disorders. “Our family experiences so many things when Grace goes to camp. We get some respite from the constant care; Grace feels independence, makes new friends and has SO MUCH FUN. Most days she asks us when she can go back to camp.” In addition, Kota Camps invite participants to share the experience with friends or siblings. “The other hidden gem is that my son attended Kota Camp with his sister and helped with the other kids. He enjoyed it so much that he is going to be a volunteer counselor this year.”
While every camper story is unique and special, the nurturing nature of Camp Aldersgate remains a common ground for extraordinary people. “From the beginning in 1947, Camp Aldersgate has always been a place for people of all backgrounds and abilities to come together. Seventy-five years later, we still welcome every individual with love and acceptance,” Camp Aldersgate Chief Executive Officer Sonya Murphy shares. “Grace and her family perfectly illustrate what our mission is all about – providing life-changing opportunities and inspiring a barrier-free future for these families and our community.”
As CEO of Smiley Technologies, Inc. – Elizabeth quickly realized that stepping into a leadership role, she could still empower colleagues to achieve greatness. “Being uncomfortable in a situation is sometimes the best way to grow, bring others on the stage with you and help them find a voice.” This philosophy resonates at Camp Aldersgate as well. “By improving this vital area of camp, it will allow campers to experience the best camp can offer in the most accessible and fun way. A lot of times, camper families might be hesitant to think that their children could do something as exhilarating or courageous as zip-lining through the trees! But with the right equipment and encouragement, there is so much possibility at Camp Aldersgate.”