Arvada Man Honored for Work with Kids Camp

Post a Comment » Written on February 25th, 2008     
Filed under: News
ARVADA, CO (February 25, 2008) – A Denver television station news program named Ron Oehlerking its February 2008 Volunteer of the Month because he is a wonderful grandfather.

Oehlerking, a member of Arvada Covenant Church, is known as grandpa to hundreds of foster children who have attended the Royal Family Kids Camp (RFKC) since the congregation started the ministry more than 15 years ago. The ministry is associated with RFKC International and Arvada Covenant was the fifth church in the world to operate a camp with the organization.

The five-day camp “lets the kids be kids and not think about all the other stuff that is happening in their lives,” Oehlerking says. About 75 kids attend each camp.

OehlerkingsMost of the campers have endured some form of abuse and know little stability in their lives, Oehlerking says. “It’s just unbelievable what these kids go through, going from home to home. Some families have dropped off a kid at camp, and a different family has picked them up.”

The kids arrive at the camp with a black plastic bag that contains everything they own, because that is how they travel between foster homes, Oehlerking says.

The camp, which is now sponsored by 10 churches, serves children ages seven to 11. Arvada Covenant started a second camp, Kings Team, in 2002 that serves young people ages 12 to 15. (Kings Team is not associated with RFKC International.) Some of the participants have gone through all eight years of camp, Oehlerking says.

Oehlerking knows them all. He started years ago as a counselor at the camp, where the ratio to campers is nearly one-to-one. Actually, Oehlerking started with the designation of  “counselor,” but the camp has switched to using “guide” instead. “These kids have so many counselors in their lives,” he explains.

Many of the volunteers are people from the church who use vacation time to work at the camp. Campers often are shocked that the volunteers work for free – many of the kids can’t imagine people spending time with them and not getting paid, Oehlerking says.

No longer a guide, Oehlerking and his wife, Pauleta, are referred to as grandpa and grandma. It is a bond that continues long after the week is over.

During other times of the year, the couple can be found running errands or shopping, and they will hear someone shout, “Grandpa! Grandma!” The couple automatically knows it is one of the “grandkids” and they stop to talk. “I just go up to them and ask them how school is going,” Oehlerking says.

Each camper is given a “memory book” that has 30 to 40 pictures of the child from the week of camp. Many of the kids have never had anything similar or any pictures from when they were younger, Oehlerking says, adding, “Some of these kids carry their books everywhere and they’ll show them to us.”

Meeting the students again is precious to the couple because social service rules prevent camp volunteers from contacting the children. Oehlerking says he understands. “These kids have been so disappointed by people saying that they will contact the kids, and then they don’t.”

Oehlerking believes firmly in the power of the time spent together at the camp. “One week can make a difference in a kid’s life,” he says.

The couple often receives letters from the campers and their families that express gratitude for the change the week has made in their lives. Oehlerking tears up as he reads from them.

Oehlerking is a retired credit union executive and has dedicated himself to the camp. When the television station called to tell him he had won the award, he was sitting at the computer composing a letter for donors, seeking contributions for a silent auction. “It’s now a full-time job,” he says.

Oehlerking was especially excited to learn that the station was honoring him with a $900 check. “I said, That’s great! That will send four kids to camp.” Then the station told him that a sponsor of the award also was giving him $900. “I said, That’s great! That will send four more kids to camp!”

Visit the KUSA-TV news site to watch the video of the station’s report.

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