In the summer of both 1978 and 1979, I began my life-long love for the Double G Ranch, its Orange Grove campers, and the Orange Grove Center itself. In ’78 and ’79, I had the privilege of serving as a counselor for Orange Grove at the Double G. For a young high school student, it was a great way to spend a summer.
Back then, we had two camp sessions, each lasting two weeks. For the Orange Grove campers, visiting Double G was the highlight of the year. Swimming, games, arts and crafts every day, recreational activities and entertainment at night. It was the highlight of the year for many of us counselors also.
We developed relationships that last to this day. We cared for each other. We became a family. The camp experience at Double G is not just a learning experience for the campers, it’s a learning experience for the counselors and staff . In many cases, these developmentally disabled campers have been spending their summers at Double G for decades. Yes, decades.
And the fact that Camp Director Lizzie Cheek may have the unenviable task of telling some Orange Grove students they won’t be able to attend Double G this year – just because of money – is simply unacceptable.
I can tell you without doubt your donations to insure a full slate of campers will bring smiles to the faces of these wonderful individuals, and if you see them in action at camp, a smile to your heart as well.
And maybe – just maybe – a few tears of happiness.
Sponsor a camper. Make a donation. I know I am.
Visit crowdrise.com/ggcampscholarshipfund, or call Camp Director Lizzie Cheek directly at 706.714-7638.
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Thank you so much, Chip Chapman, for letting us know what’s up on summer camp at “Double G.” My brother forwarded this to me and five of my other sibs who also were counselors. Emails went flying around and we are automatically all in. I don’t really feel like I have a choice in the matter.
I was 15 the first time I went and was scared to death of “retarded people.” I hadn’t even unpacked before “Karen from Gadsden, Alabama” informed me that I was her boyfriend. Okay, uh, well, I didn’t actually have a girlfriend but oh, God, what have I done? About 10 minutes into my nightmare a counselor named Karen said “Just relax. Don’t be so afraid.”
I thought Karen, the counselor, was pretty so I slowly did what she said and thirty minutes into my new adventure I realized that I might be doing something radically cool. It’s actually okay to let Karen, the camper, tell everybody she loves me even though we’ve only known each other for 1,200 seconds. It’s also okay for Downs’ boy Johnny to come up out of nowhere and wrap his beautiful 14 year old self around you and squeeze for no reason other than he just wants to. I didn’t know then that summer camp at Double G would profoundly affect who I am now, some 36 years later.
They gave out T-shirts for the camp picture every session and later that summer I was wearing mine while checking out the new Harleys at Pate’s Harley out on 153. A big guy who was about three or four years older was on the other side of the showroom and he said “Yeah man! Everybody outta go ta Orange Grove Camp! Haha!” and then he contorted himself up while his buddy laughed. I wanted to ax murder the doofus right then and there. But he was right. Everybody should do that.
Every single bit of it. The doo doo on your hands dirty pants, the slobbering, the butt kicking you might get that day when Joe forgot his meds and everything else. What I got in return made me pretty well shocked that they actually paid me to do that. I will love, forever and in no particular order, Steven Davis, Edmund Antribus, Joe Cody, Hubie Green, Johnny Cooley, Jackie Tyber, Bobby Owens and every single other camper whose name I no longer remember. One kid was a roly-poly Downs who was permanently attached to some cheap binoculars. When Bob Brandy came he danced like a Rockette, kicking his feet out full tilt while looking into the distance with his “nocklers.” You had to laugh.
I’m ashamed that I can’t remember my girlfriend's last name. She was Karen and her arms really were contorted like that jackass in the bike shop. She had a long face and I was afraid of her. She invited me and my sister, Monica, to visit her in Gadsden. If I could go back in time, that’s one of the first things I’d do. And I’d give her a big kiss.
So yes, do what the good man Chip Chapman says to do. You will change somebody’s life.
And one more not so little thing: None of this would have happened if it weren’t for Gordon Street. Hundreds of people like me learned about love because of his unyielding dedication to GG Ranch. God blessed him and he is resting in peace. No doubt.
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Thanks to Mr. Chapman and the Chattanoogan.com for bringing this wonderful program to the attention of our community. I do not have any ties to Orange Grove, but your heart has to go out when you think of all of the wonderful work they do.
I hope the letter and attached link leads to broad support from many people because even small donations, when aggregated together, can make a real difference in the lives of those who deserve our community's support.
David R. Evans