In 1981, Prince Charles married Lady Diana in London, the first space shuttle was launched from Cape Canaveral, President Reagan was shot and wounded in Washington, D. C., and I was a first-year camper at Sooner Youth Camp. My earliest memory of Sooner was getting to camp early on Sunday morning and worshiping with the staff. After lunch I rode around in the back of a pickup truck with some other guys, making sure all the cabins had enough beds and mattresses. It was hot work, the mattresses looked really thin and uncomfortable, and I didn’t know anyone–I was nervous. I wasn’t worried about the heat and I could sleep on just about anything, but, like a lot of 13-year-old kids, I liked having a friend to hang out with when I was in an unfamiliar place.

The first day was a little awkward, but it didn’t take long to meet some people and get to know the other guys in my cabin. I went to camp with guys like Wade McKnight and Jimmy Vercelli for six years, and we became life-long friends that still keep in touch with each other. Staff members, such as Olden Cook, Dorothy Smith, and Bob Utley, modeled the Christian life for me and had a lasting impact on my spiritual growth. I returned to camp as a counselor in 1991, knowing that I had the opportunity to continue to form relationships with campers and staff that would last a lifetime.

Thirty years later, it’s still hot at Group Camp #1, I still make sure the cabins have enough bunks, and there are always folks I don’t know on the first day of camp. But some of my closest friends and fondest memories are formed and renewed each year on the beautiful shores of Lake Murray. Sooner is a special place for a lot of people. You can read some of the camper testimonials on this website or check out our Facebook site for video clips of campers explaining what Sooner means to them.

Scott Billingsley
First Week Counselor

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