Salvation Army’s Camp Ladore Creates Lasting Friendships and Faith-Filled Memories
Sydney Hicks, 18, and a Philadelphia native, understands what The Salvation Army’s Camp Ladore can do for kids. Afterall, the now counselor experienced firsthand how it impacted her own life as a previous camper.
“This could be the best time of their summer, and you do not want to ruin it for them,” she said of the camp that has been operated by The Salvation Army of Eastern Pennsylvania and Delaware since 1967.
Nestled in the heart of the Pocono Mountains in Waymart, Pa., Camp Ladore comes alive each year with laughter, adventure, and transformation. Camp Ladore, with its 1,200 scenic acres of land surrounding a breath-taking 265-acre lake, is a sanctuary for more than 700 young, eager souls from all over Eastern Pennsylvania and Delaware each summer. The camp has a particular interest in giving kids the camping experience who come from inner cities or are economically challenged.
The Salvation Army has been actively serving America's youth for over 120 years. A large part of their success is due to the Red Kettle campaign each holiday season that funds the organization to continue its year-round efforts at helping those in need. It enables The Eastern Pennsylvania and Delaware Division to provide recreational activities, educational opportunities, as well as religious and character-building programs, camping, and more.
Beneath the towering trees, an array of activities await these young adventurers each summer. There are joyful splashes in the swimming pool, spirited Kayak races on the lake, thrilling challenges on the high ropes course, and artistic expressions brought to life in arts and crafts. Once the sun sets, campers join in a selection of evening programs, from the age-old thrill of capturing the flag to camping and roasting marshmallows under the starry night sky.
But Camp Ladore is more than just a summer escape; it is a place for camp goers to find their own journeys of faith as they committed their lives to Christ for the first time or experienced a recommitment.
After her mom’s friend told her about Camp Ladore, Sydney completed one year as a camper. Following the COVID-19 pandemic, she returned to camp as a junior counselor in 2022 and finished her second summer as a senior counselor this summer.
“I saw an ad on Instagram that said ‘apply to work at Camp Ladore,’ and I thought, ‘Oh, well, let me try it out’ because I liked my experience as a camper,” Sydney said. “So I thought maybe I would like the experience on the other side.”
As someone who experienced Camp Ladore firsthand as a camper, Sydney felt she knew what the kids were looking for.
Camp Ladore is not only for campers to be themselves and get out of their comfort zones but also for the counselors to do the same. Sydney praised camp for pushing her to try activities she may not have done elsewhere. “Kayaking was funny to me because I don’t like being in water, and I thought it would be a mess,” she said. “But it was so fun.”
Even when Sydney felt scared, she knew the influence she had on the campers and put any reservations she had aside. “I had to put my big girl pants on and block it off for the kids,” she said. “We are leaders at the end of the day, and we must show them we shouldn’t be scared of everything and try new things. It was difficult sometimes, but I overcame my fear, still did my thing, and had fun with the kids.”
There is a lot of exposure to new things at camp, and one of the highlights for Sydney was working with staff members from England, Ireland, and South Africa. “I made many friends with the international staff and learned about their culture and the world.”
Sydney also became friends with one of her old counselors from when she was a camper, which was a full-circle moment for her. Her counselor served as a mentor and taught her how to work with the campers. “It was definitely a valuable experience,” Sydney reflected. “She tutored me and helped me throughout the summer with my kids, which was a big help.”
But her favorite memory was the Devotions activity. “The kids got in touch with God, and they expressed what they were going through mentally and physically,” Sydney said. “They were vulnerable, and I feel grateful because we gave them a space to let go and let them speak their minds.”
Sydney said that this vulnerability strengthened the counselors' bond with the campers because she felt like a big sister to them, which helped build trust. “You feel the connection with the kids,” she said. “You understand them a certain way, and they also understand you. They feel the counselor’s aura and the happiness you give them. That was my motivation for the whole summer. It was for the campers, and I had to give my all for the kids.”
By the conclusion of summer, Sydney and the other 94 staff members made Camp Ladore a memorable and warm environment for campers to thrive and nourish their bodies, minds, and spirits. To learn more about Camp Ladore and its offerings, visit https://campladore.org.