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CHWC teaches teens about service

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Helping others and gaining nothing in return may seem like a waste of time to some people, but at Catholic Heart Work Camp, that’s exactly what high school students do.
Every year, teenagers from around the country head to a major city to share their love of Jesus and serve the neglected through participating in CHWC.
For one week in June, 22 Los Alamos High School students from Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church loaded into four vans with five chaperons and headed to Denver, Colo.
They met at 6 a.m. June 12 and after seven hours, they arrived at Ranum High School in Denver. The school would be home base for the next six days. There they met over 400 student and chaperone camp participants.
These campers were from Texas, South Dakota, Iowa, Kansas and Colorado. Together they worked, prayed, slept, ate and played and helped needy people in the suburbs of Denver.
Each day started at 6 a.m. with a wake up “song” over the intercom.
Breakfast was served at 6:45 a.m., followed by morning announcements and work assignments. By 10 a.m., the campers were in the field working.
The work that campers did was sometimes pretty tough, but everyone did it and seemed to have fun.
Some of the work consisted of painting houses, fences and garages. Other jobs included pulling weeds, trimming bushes, mowing lawns, cutting down trees, tearing down and building sheds and more.
After a long day’s work, campers went back to the high school, took showers and had fun during free time.
After a hearty dinner, campers watched a program put on by the CHWC staff. Professional singer, Cooper Ray also performed. During the program a skit was performed, then the campers prayed together and learned more about their shared faith.
Steve and Lisa Walker, who were youth ministers at St. Margaret Mary Church in Winter Park, Fla., founded CHWC in 1993. The first work camp was in Orlando, with 100 participants. In 1995 the CHWC expanded, adding a second city, Pittsburgh, Penn. In 1997 the first work camp “tour” was established and included Detroit, Michigan, Mobile, Ala. and Denver.
The CHWC had over 1,000 campers that year. In 1998, the Walkers became full-time presidents of CHWC and the number of camps doubled that year, as five more cities were added to the camp schedule.
They included Phoenix and New Orleans. In 2001, CHWC went international, putting a camp in Jamaica. CHWC now has over 5,000 campers and it is growing every year.
CHWC is not all about work, though. The last day is devoted to fun at a local amusement park or attraction.
The Los Alamos Immaculate Heart of Mary group spent the entire day at Elitch Gardens Amusement Park, riding rollercoasters, playing arcade games and eating giant plates of chili fries. A trip downtown offered a variety of restaurants to choose from at the end of the day.
Saturday, June 18 arrived and campers seemed excited to go home, but disappointed at the same time.
They felt they had made a difference in the lives of those less fortunate and made many new friends from around the country. Many of the teens said they intend to participate in Catholic Heart Work Camp again next year.

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--Tom Hanlon