Young Rudy Sosa stood against the fence of a roadside park along Highway 83 and looked at the Frio River. He heard the whoops and hollers of campers downstream—kids his own age—jumping into the clear river, and he couldn’t believe how beautiful it was. He wished he could be one of them.
That was the early 1960s. Today, Sosa shares that same story every year when he takes kids from the Neighborhood Centers of Corpus Christi to the H. E. Butt Foundation Camp, which he has done for many decades.
“A lot of them have never been out of Corpus,” Sosa explains. “They need this type of exposure. They need to get out of their environment to see more beautiful things, those things God created.” Stories like Sosa’s are themselves beautiful. They’re also business as usual. The Foundation hosts 22,000 people annually across five different campsites, each of which is hosting people nearly every day of the year.
John Kerr, Director of Foundation Camp, loves the challenge. On an average week, Kerr typically hosts four or five groups at once, offering orientation to each one and remaining on call to meet any needs throughout their stay.
In one recent weekend, Foundation Camp hosted a family retreat at Echo Valley, a youth retreat at Singing Hills, a college student retreat at Linnet’s Wings, and a church retreat at Windsong. With such a diverse constituency, Foundation Camp is “a catch-all community service element of what the Foundation provides,” says Kerr.
In fact, no program is closer to the heart of the original vision of the H. E. Butt Foundation. When the Foundation first purchased the property in 1954, Mary Holdsworth Butt recorded her dreams in her journal. “We want if possible to establish a camp somewhere in the Texas hills,” she wrote, “where groups of children can go, where a hundred years from now, deer, turkey, squirrels, and rabbits can still be seen.”
Kerr says the pace of Foundation Camp is relentless, and that’s a good thing. “We want our camps to be full with programs and activity and people,” he says. March and April are especially busy months, as temperatures begin to rise and guests head to the Hill Country for spring break. No matter the month, programs and activities can look remarkably different for each group. Foundation Camp hosts retreats for churches, youth centers, schools, senior citizens, and drug rehab groups. Kerr regularly scurries on his ATV from an orientation with contemplative senior citizens to a rowdy worship set with high schoolers.
Kerr, Sosa, and the entire Foundation Camp team find their mission in the constant work. Sosa says he’s proud that because of what they do, kids like the ones he works with in Corpus Christi have a chance for a rare wilderness experience. “They need to get out of their environment to see more beautiful things—those things that God has created,” he says. “It opens their minds.”