A summer camp was always in the original design of Wears Valley Ranch. Pastor Jim Wood, having grown up in a destination city, wanted to utilize the distinctive location of the Ranch not only as a year-round children’s home and school, but also as a unique summer camp for kids desiring to experience the opportunities provided by the Great Smoky Mountains.
Wears Valley Ranch had been in full operation for six years when the first session of summer camp began. At the time, it was simply called, Wears Valley Ranch Camp. During the first two summers of camp, campers played tennis, participated in field games, went hiking, rode horses, made smores over a campfire, and listened to the preaching of Pastor Wood. These original campers, after a full day of camp, did not return to a cabin, but slept on the dining hall front porch. The camp cabin did not make its debut until the summer of 2000.
Each summer, more and more campers registered for camp, and the staff at Wears Valley Ranch began to see its full potential developing; significant changes started taking place. In 2002, Wears Valley Ranch Camp became Camp Arrowwood. Taken from Psalms 127:4, the new name spoke of a desire for children to see how valuable they truly are. Psalm 127:4 states that children are arrows travelling towards a target. The staff at Camp Arrowwood wants to come alongside parents to help aim their kids towards the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For many campers, the week spent at Camp Arrowwood is a special time to look back at as they become adults, because not only did they experience amazing activities, but it was also at camp that they begin to grasp their full potential.
Along with the new name came a new camp director. Having recently graduated from Berry College in Rome, Georgia, and after working his way up at one of the South’s largest camps, Seth Houser arrived with an abundance of ideas, imagination, and a vision. In his first summer, he began adding new camp activities such as rock climbing and archery. The structure of camp congealed into an efficient system, maximizing activity and excitement. Registration soared, and each session of camp continued to reach capacity. However, as the amount of campers increased, the amount of staff members also multiplied. Camp Arrowwood, unlike so many of its counterparts, has a two to one camper to staff ratio. Every child is given specific attention as the staff works to disciple campers in the week they are given. With this main purpose, along with the new tracks, and even new camp songs, summers at Wears Valley Ranch were beginning to tap into a more remarkable, unforgettable experience.
This coming summer, 2017, marks the 20th consecutive year of Camp Arrowwood. Much has changed since the first summer, however, the message is still the same. Every night of the week, campers hear the Gospel and are instilled with the confidence that they have significance and purpose. For this reason, campers return year after year and go home with energy and excitement that carries through to the next summer, when it begins all over again.