There may be nothing better than a smile, especially on a child’s face. MLM recently partnered with the ELCA Synod to generate at least 30 smiles.

The Synod operates Camp Tomah Shinga in the Flint Hills south of Junction City, Kan., where camp programs for young people and ministries are held year round. Recently, Rev. Roger R. Gustafson, Bishop of the Central States Synod, approached MLM about sending low-income youth to the summer camp. MLM and its partner, Avenue of Life in Wyandotte County, recruited 27 young people and three parents to attend camp in early July. A funder even stepped forward to underwrite the project so there was no cost to participants. The results were miraculous.

“One mom said she’d never been out of Kansas City,” recalled Starla Brennan, MLM operations director. “Getting all of them out in nature, hiking, building a campfire—it was very moving.”

Activities ranged from morning and evening prayer to a 50-foot climbing wall and zip line. Campers took turns holding ropes, belaying, tie-dying shirts and hiking.

“There were some feel-good moments that were really impactful,” Brennan said. “The campfires, with singing and s’mores, were really fun.”

At the end of the week, each child painted a rock and, in a closing ceremony, added it to a giant cross made of other stones on a large hill overlooking the camp.

Shortly after the camp, one of the parents wrote about what the week had meant to her and her children. “The kids have not stopped talking about their experience at camp. Thank you and your team so much for the story they will be able to share for a lifetime. They all said they want to go again next year.”

Questions? Contact Scott Cooper at 816.931.0027 or

Summer Camp Brings Smiles, Memories

"The kids have not stopped talking about their experience at camp."