Camp's growth a credit to Springdale community
By Braden Ashe
Published: Wednesday, June 19, 2013, 12:31 a.m.
When the annual Fun and Freedom summer camp opened Monday in Springdale, camp directors David and Jeannine McCutcheon ushered in the largest class of youth campers since the Christian faith-based sports camp's 2009 inception.
What began with 54 first- through sixth-grade campers then has blossomed into the non-profit Fun and Freedom organization's most popular and widely supported program.
The nondenominational camp, which runs through Friday, is designed to combine sports and faith in positively impacting youth.
Its appeal is growing more pervasive each year among Springdale-area elementary students.
“Five years ago, I held the counselor orientation meeting in my living room,” David McCutcheon said. “This year, we held it in the elementary school gymnasium. We have about 80 junior and senior counselors and 154 registered campers this year.”
David's wife, Jeannine, said she believes the key to the camp's success lies in the support they receive from local organizations and the community at large.
Both Riverside Community and Springdale Open Bible churches, as well as the borough, provide the camp with transportation and space for worship and sporting activities. They also receive support from dozens of adult volunteers from the neighborhood.
“I know that a lot of other communities have tried things like this and they've fallen apart,” she said. “I think the fact that this one here is continually successful speaks volumes to how amazing this community is.”
Fun and Freedom campers spend a portion of their days in Bible study and performing community service projects such as painting and landscaping for the borough.
The remainder of their time is spent playing sports in friendly competition. Lacrosse and cricket are among the least common of the sports offered, which includes soccer, basketball and volleyball.
Kathy Kotlinski, Fun and Freedom assistant sports director, said the camp benefits the area's youth because it provides an atmosphere in which athletes of all abilities can learn to play absent the myriad of pressures inherent of organized sports.
“From such a young age, kids are pressured to win at all costs,” she said. “It takes the fun out of it.
“We put the fun back in it and give kids a chance to learn about the game and the importance of teamwork and respect. That's what Fun and Freedom was founded on.”
Fun and Freedom was founded in 2003 by former Springdale High School physical education teacher and girls basketball coach Deeni Riddle. According to Riddle's longtime friend and Springdale neighbor Lorie Sakala, the coach and educator was inspired to launch the non-profit after doing some missionary work over a decade ago in Bolivia.
Riddle traveled to the South American nation with a group of college women basketball players. On the trip, the women confided in Riddle that the game at that level had lost its “fun and freedom.”
That's when, Sakala said, Riddle decided to combine her love of kids and sports with her Christian faith and launch Fun and Freedom.
The organization first put on a three-on-three basketball tournament on Sunday nights before initiating a weekly summer basketball program in Natrona Heights, Harrison.
Riddle never saw the summer day camp open. The longtime coach and educator died in September 2006 at age 58 after a seven-month battle with leukemia.
Fun and Freedom co-founder and current Director Penny Houston said the summer camp is the embodiment of what Riddle stood for. She believes its continuation is the best way to preserve her legacy of service.
“She loved sports,” Houston said, “she loved kids and she loved Christ. This program reflects her core values and reminds the community what kind of a person she was. I believe that she, in some way, is still alive through it.”
Braden Ashe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-226-4673.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Printing delinquent tax list pays off for Highlands
- Obama budget puts more money into nuclear cleanup, not locks and dams
- Fields set for primary elections on May 20
- Rural Ridge residents question NRG’s plans for landfill
- Allegheny Valley to decide on Colfax roof at March 18 meeting
- Classes cancelled Wednesday at Acmetonia Primary School
- Fear of building collapse closes Tarentum road
- Development involving former Heights Elementary to expand
- Valley’s marina owners ready to repair ice-damaged docks
- Highlands School District finds collecting back taxes no easy task
- Tax delinquency’s impact varies in Valley