Last updated: December 16. 2013 3:20PM - 1582 Views
Christina Day Staff Writer cday@civitasmedia.com

New Hope Camper Olivia rests under the tree donated to her family from Sexton Tree Farm.
New Hope Camper Olivia rests under the tree donated to her family from Sexton Tree Farm.
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Sexton Tree Farm brought some much needed Christmas cheer, in the form of donated live Christmas trees, to the families who have stayed at Camp New Hope this year.

“Robin Sexton (Sexton Tree Farm owner) called me two years ago and said they wanted to do a little something to brighten our campers’ days,” Randy Brown, Camp New Hope Director said.

For the second year in a row, Sexton donated and shipped a tree to the family of each camper who visited Camp New Hope during the year.

“So many of the families tell me this is the first live tree they’ve ever had,” Brown said.

Families have been flooding Camp New Hope’s Facebook page with messages of gratitude and pictures of their decorated trees.

“We decorated (the tree) with a ‘Mickey Mouse’ theme to match her room and Olivia loves it,” Morgan Lewis, mother of Olivia Grace, said.

Olivia and her family traveled from Louisiana to stay at Camp New Hope in April. New Hope, in its ninth season of welcoming campers, was conceived of by owners Mark and Will Adkins of Cornelius.

“They called me and said they had a 160-acre farm with a 1950s hunting lodge that they wanted to turn into a camp for terminally ill children,” Brown said of the Adkins brothers.

The nonprofit camp, which sits on a hillside overlooking a wide bend in the New River in West Jefferson, is for children who are terminally ill or have a life threatening illness.

New Hope welcomes one child, who can be accompanied by up to nine family members, each week of the year. Everything, from room and board to recreation is provided to the families free of charge.

“It takes some of the burdens and pressure off the families that don’t get to go on vacation or do anything as a family because they spend so much money on hospital bills, doctor bills and medicines,” Brown said.

Brown said that approximately 85 percent of the campers are in wheelchairs or otherwise confined by feeding tubes or oxygen tanks, and many suffer from very rare illnesses such as Batten’s Disease or Spinal Muscular Atrophy.

Her passion and dedication as camp director is evident as she tears up talking about the families stay at the camp and the generosity of those in the community who have donated to it, such as Sexton Tree Farm, Hunters for the Hungry, and the local boy scout troop who visits the camp to make s’mores around the handicapped accessible fire pit.

Olivia’s mother Morgan said that she was overwhelmed by how much the camp provided during their week’s visit.

“They supplied us with everything that we could possibly need,” Lewis said, “Olivia even seemed more calm and happier, I think maybe it was the fresh air, we don’t get much of that here in Louisiana.”

Sherry Jackson, whose daughter Caitlin, a former camper, also received a Sexton Tree, said that their family’s time at New Hope provided lasting memories.

“When we are there it’s almost as if we are in another world,” Jackson said. She offered her gratitude to both New Hope and Sexton Tree Farm adding that Cailtin “loves the lights on the tree.”

Jennifer Medley has accompanied her son Jake from Florida to Camp New Hope with their family five times over the years. Medley calls the tree her family received from Sexton “a visual reminder that there is still a lot of good in the world.”

Brown said Sexton Farm has shipped trees to former campers “from New York to Florida” and camp neighbor Fred Cox donated trees to adorn the lodge for visitors during the Christmas season.

“It’s just an honor for us to get to be a part of their lives,” Brown said of the campers, “We want them to know this time of year how special they are and how much of a difference they have made in our lives.”

For more information on Camp New Hope visit campnewhopenc.com.

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