Church's sports camp connects communities while developing skills

When Mark Klimovitz became associate pastor of outreach and education at Friendship Baptist Church in Sykesville last June, he said he wanted to focus the majority of his efforts on helping the local community through whatever means, whether financially, emotionally or physically. He named his efforts the LoveLoud Campaign. After spending nearly $20,000 on free events in the Sykesville area and replacing the roof on Millard Copper Park's pavilion free of charge to the town, he decided to extend the church's sphere of influence.

The church will be holding its inaugural Power Kidz Sports Kamp, a week-long skills camp from 9 a.m. to noon June 16-20. Kamp is open to any child from first though fifth grade and the registration fee is $20 per child. The camp's capacity is 250 children and 50 per sport.

The church chose the name and the logo, a power button for a computer, because of the age group Kamp is targeting.

"Every kid in that age group has a smart device and they know that symbol," Klimovitz said. "They can relate to that power symbol. Just like a computer needs power, so do kids."

Kamp will focus on five sports: lacrosse, baseball, football, soccer, and track and field. Initially, Klimovitz wanted the camp to extend to more sports, particularly girls-only sports such as field hockey, softball and girl's lacrosse. He said the church was unable to find a softball coach, and the two coaches they found for field hockey and girl's lacrosse had scheduling conflicts for the week Kamp was planned. In order to accommodate girls, Klimovitz decided to make both soccer and track and field co-ed.

The church negotiated with Liberty High School and received permission from the school to use its athletic fields. Each child will receive a free T-shirt, but participants will need to provide their own equipment. Klimovitz said though Kamp is far less expensive than other summer sports camps, the knowledge and skill of the coaching staff at least equals them.

"The expertise of the coaches is excellent," Klimovitz said. "This is a real skills camp where kids that come will have a real chance to develop their skills."

Lacrosse will be coached by two former collegiate lacrosse players, Brandon Johnson and Zach Hinton. Hinton is now the head coach of Century High School's boys varsity team while Johnson is the assistant coach for boys varsity lacrosse at Westminster High School.

Mark Massey, senior pastor at Friendship Baptist and a former NCAA Division I baseball player, and Dave Boteler, who has coached baseball at multiple high schools, will coach baseball at Kamp. Soccer will be coached by Walter von Rautenkranz, who played professionally in Switzerland. Jeff Kent, former varsity football coach at Liberty High School, will head up the coaching staff for football. Alongside him will be Ed Fulton, a former All-American guard at University of Maryland who played professionally for 10 years with the Buffalo Bills and the Los Angeles Rams. Track and field will be organized by Claude Flagg, who has coached multiple sports for almost 30 years.

The majority of the coaches happen to be members of Friendship Baptist, and the few who are not are friends with members and were subsequently told about the upcoming Kamp. All of them are volunteering their time for the event.

As part of the church's LoveLoud Campaign, Klimovitz said Kamp's purpose is to connect with people in the community in order to eliminate any and all negative influences, to love louder than the surrounding hatreds. Not only will the camp achieve this purpose by helping local elementary school children develop skills in the sports they love, all money raised from registrations will be used to fund repairs of a playground at a school in Baltimore City. Volunteers from the church will also build the structure.

"It was clear to us that a great opportunity existed to connect, in a tangible way, the Sykesville area children's love of sports with the children who love sports in Baltimore City," Klimovitz wrote in a press release.

This form of outreach resonated with Jeff Kent, who spent time in 2005 helping to coach sports camps near the Gulf of Mexico after the area was devastated by Hurricane Katrina. When Klimovitz approached Kent with the idea to start their own camp, Kent leapt at the opportunity.

"It's something I've wanted to do since after Hurricane Katrina," Kent said. "It's a great way to reach out to the community and support it."

Johnson said expectations are difficult to determine, but as long as the weather is kind, the experienced coaching staff coupled with the fields at Liberty High School should make for a successful Kamp.

"Since it's the first year, the expectations are tough to judge, but the church has a great youth group and Mark is well connected so hopefully we can get a couple hundred kids," Johnson said.

Klimovitz said if the Power Kidz Sports Kamp is successful, the next step would be to include children from a wider age range and to add more sports.

"Hopefully we can eventually expand it to include middle school-aged kids," Klimovitz said. "Everything we do is to bring people together."