Hundreds of children, parents and volunteers gathered at The Linsly School for the annual C3 Soccer Camp on Monday to learn a few soccer skills, sing songs and make new friends.
Organized by the C3 Covenant Community Church in Wheeling, the camp is in its 10th year and has drawn more than 3,500 children from around the tri-state area since its beginning, according to camp Director Chad Adams. Over the years, he said, camp participation has grown from about 75 children per season to more than 400 budding soccer players.
"We had an idea since there were a lot of people interested in soccer in the church that we wanted an alternative to the traditional vacation Bible school," Adams said. "So we thought, 'Let's combine the two.' The community has really responded."
Photos by Sarah Harmon
Alexander Markan, 4, of Wheeling makes a shot at the goal at C3 Soccer Camp on Monday at The Linsly School.
Keeyera Soloman, 9, of Wheeling, from left, volunteer coach Ricci Zambito, Paul Allen Littleton, 8, of Wheeling and volunteer coach Chris Zambito take part in the camp’s 10th year.
Abby Thomas, 4, of Wheeling winds up to take a shot on goal.
Over four days, youths ages 4-10 don soccer cleats and shin guards to begin each evening practicing soccer drills and playing games for about an hour before gathering for songs, skits, Bible readings and a snack. The children are divided by age group to ensure the instruction and Bible readings are suitable for their level of development, Adams said.
"The younger kids are learning the basics, and then it progresses with each age group what we teach them," Adams said.
The children are instructed by volunteer coaches from various local colleges and high schools, as well as church members, Adams said. He noted the camp, which is offered for free, may be the only opportunity for some youngsters to attend camp in the summer.
"We live in a neat community and to give a free camp at the level we are able to do it, because of the volunteers we get, it has been fun," Adams said. "We have college coaches, college players, high coaches and players. The credentials of the coaching staff alone, people would pay for, so it's wonderful they volunteer their time. If this is some kid's only summer camp, we want it to be first class."
To wrap up the week, the church will hold a celebration at C3 Church, located on Bethany Pike, on Sunday to recognize the campers and to invite new community members to join the camp next year. After the worship service, families will enjoy a picnic and a "fun festival" with large inflatables, face painting and games at no charge.
Kathy Blatt of Wheeling said her daughters look forward to the camp every year and woke up Monday morning asking what time the camp would start. She said the camp is well organized and believes the volunteer coaches are "good role models" for her children.
"It's unique, memorable and a fun way for the kids to learn about God," she said.