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August 16, 2013

Minus leader, Royal Family Kids Camp goes on

NEW CASTLE — Days before Beth Pears died at age 44 in May, she requested a meeting with her Royal Family Kids Camp staff.

The ministry that she and husband Drew began in 2005 would need to undergo change, and Beth was thinking beyond the short time she had remaining.

“She said we needed to transition into new leadership,” said Sarah Harrison, who stepped into the position of camp director after serving as Beth’s assistant for five years.

The Lawrence County RFKC, which takes place at Camp Sepncer, is for abused and neglected children ages 7 to 11. They are treated like royalty for a week.

The eighth annual camp — the first without Beth — concludes today. It has been emotional for the all-volunteer staff, as well as for the 45-plus children ages 7 to 11, many of whom had observed her smiling face and gentle demeanor.

“Beth left an amazing example for us to follow,” Harrison said. “Continuing in her footsteps is the best way to honor her memory.”

Even though Beth is gone, her influence is everywhere.

“She’s always in the back of our minds, involved in every aspect of camp from planning to executing,” Harrison said.

Drew and Beth would have celebrated there 21st wedding anniversary last month. While still mourning the loss of his wife, Drew is pouring himself into RFKC week as usual.

“I try to stay busy all the time,” Drew said. “We were partners. She was the leader and I was her right hand.”

Not only are we honoring her memory, but doing what we know is right.”

Drew said the couple wanted to have a ministry together, and RFKC was the one that tagged at their hearts. “Beth took the reins,” he said.

Drew said the impact camp week has on a child can’t be measured.

One child had a powerful question for Drew this week that left him quaking. “Would you be my dad,” the child asked. “I’ve never had one.”

Beth taught high school literature at Shenango as was honored as Teacher of the Year.

She was passionate about RFKC.

“Our mission is to provide positive memories,” Beth said in a 2007 interview. “We want the children to be able to draw on those memories throughout the year.”

Lori Lombardo said Beth was always thinking about the camp, making preparations for 51 weeks until being able to live it for a week.

“Without Beth, our normal has changed,” she said. “We have a new normal now.”

Colleen Hannon, who has been on the staff for seven years, said Beth’s passing has been toughest on the counselors.

The staff had two days of training and celebrated Beth’s life with their own tribute Sunday during a special tree planting.

“It was a way for the staff to have some closure,” Harrison said.

But along with tears this week has been laughter. “Sometimes things occur that make us say “ ‘That’s SO Beth,’ ” Lombardo said.

Painful memories are giving way to inspiring ones.

(Email: d_burcham@ncnewsonline.com)

 

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