A summer camp growing ‘Compassion Fruit’

WTHI Photo, John Timm
WTHI Photo, John Timm

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) – You take a YMCA director, a group of kids and a few handfuls of seeds. Mix it all together and let it sit over summer and you’ve got a great recipe for compassion.

This story grows into something simple, round and red. They’re great on hamburgers and they even put the “T” in a BLT.

However, it’s not about what these delicious slices can do in the kitchen; it’s what they can do for the community.

But this is where the story ends. It actually begins at summer camp. A YMCA summer camp to be exact.

“We had a hundred and twenty kids this year,” says Eleanor Ramseier, director of the Terre Haute YMCA.

Eleanor has been the director of the YMCA since 2012.

“We’re always trying to come up with programs that will go along with our focus points,” she explained. “Youth development, healthy living, social responsibility and so I came up with this idea for the tomato project and I thought that would cover all three of those in one little tomato plant.”

A project that would prove to be a hit with the kids.

“They got to sign their names on all their stakes and then when they actually got to come out and pick them in that in-between time…it was so fun. We saw them count the green tomatoes and come running up ‘I’ve got nine tomatoes’ and ‘This ones turning red’ and I actually had a little boy who was standing in front of it and came back and said I just saw it grow.”

After putting in a lot of hard work into the garden, it was time for these summer camp goers to enjoy the fruits of their labor.

The plan was to sell what you grow, but what the kids wanted to do with the money is what really made Eleanor smile.

“We sat down and we asked them and I was just blown away with some of the answers. It was like can we give back to the church. Maryland community church let us use their land,” – said Eleanor. “I want to use the money to give to the Light House Mission. Can we give some to my church? They are trying to build or dig a well in India.”

One camper said, “I want to give it to my neighbors and donate to Riley.”

Another camp goer said, “I’m going to sell the tomatoes to the Union Hospital kids.”

But the one that broke Eleanor’s heart was kid who told her, “I’m going to help my sister for a special medicine and for maybe they find a cure for her.”

So the lesson learned this summer?

“If you would hear these kids just to see the joy in their face that they were actually going to be able to help somebody else…I think that’s what they got out of it. I think just the accomplishment of taking something to nothing to something that’s important and what you do with that afterwards,” said Eleanor.

A garden that not only grew plants, but the hearts of children as well.

“They just grew in so many ways. You get a few leaders and a few people saying hey this is the right thing to do. This is where we want to give our money. Then all of the sudden it does. It grows the other person’s heart.”

It’s the lesson of giving that all started out with a hand full of seeds.

“And they made a huge difference in these kids life and so all around it was crazy summer camp but lots of good, lots of good.”

If you would like to purchase some of these beauties you can contact the Terre Haute YMCA at (812) 232-8446 or the United Way of the Wabash Valley at (812) 235-6287.

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