California Migrant Youth Pay it Forward to their Ohio Counterparts to Help Create Summer Bible Camp

Act of generosity spans 2,500 miles and enriches the lives of givers, recipients and the community

CHICAGO (June 20, 2014) – What began as a unifying project for kids in Salinas, Calif., has helped make possible a weeklong summer camp for fellow children of migrant farmworkers in Hartville, Ohio, thanks to an unselfish act of generosity.  It began when the Cristo Rey Youth Group (Diocese of Monterey, Calif.) submitted a video as part of Extension Day, an initiative of Catholic Extension, a national nonprofit committed to strengthening and building the Catholic faith in some of America’s poorest areas.  The organization has a special relationship with young Catholics, providing more than $3 million annually in support of programs that engage youth and nurture future church leaders.

The video, entitled “Cristo Rey Night Walks” documented the children of migrant farm workers, often at risk of being lured by gangs while parents work long hours in the fields. The Salinas youth band together to walk at night as a way of encouraging pride in the community, demonstrating their choice to honor their faith over gang participation. The submission garnered a $500 grant to the group to reinvest in its ministry. Instead, the kids decided to pay it forward. Catholic Extension matched the funds from other donors and is contributing $1,500 toward “The Workshop of Wonders,” a weeklong camp aimed at area children of migrant workers in the Diocese of Youngstown, Ohio.

The Workshop of Wonders is set for June 23-27 and is expected to host nearly 60 children aged between kindergarten and sixth grade. Each day’s activities, to include crafts, music and a storytelling tent, will revolve around a different Bible verse. Afternoon meals will also be provided. Older kids, in seventh and eighth grade, will participate as teachers’ assistants to help supervise the younger children.

Sister Karen Bernhardt is the former Director of Catholic Migrant Farmworker Network, who is now volunteering her time to organize and run the camp, with additional support from the Migrant Ministry Center. There is no cost for the children to attend but start-up costs, including materials and transportation for volunteers, have been incurred to get the camp up and running.

“We are so grateful to the kids of Salinas as well as to Catholic Extension for making this camp possible,” said Bernhardt. “The bible school is truly a community undertaking. Since the parents work such long hours in the fields, this provides peace of mind that their kids are able to experience an enriching environment. They really feel that the community is behind them and looking after their kids.”

The original idea for Extension Day was Catholic Extension’s response to a call by Pope Francis at World Youth Day in July 2013, for young people to “make some noise.” Thousands of America’s youth responded and more than 70 videos were received from 47 dioceses. From these, 23 finalists and six recipients were selected. The Salinas group was one of the finalists and their choice to help another group in similar circumstances exemplifies the pope’s ongoing urging to go out and serve.

“We are so proud of these kids for reaching across the country and impacting the lives of children who may be far away but who have the same experience as migrant families,” said Joe Boland, vice president of mission at Catholic Extension.  “Matching the gift is perfectly aligned with Catholic Extension’s mission to invest in underserved communities in ways that will grow the Catholic faith. We look forward to this camp serving the children of Hartville.”

Boland will be on hand during the camp to represent Catholic Extension. Media are invited to attend the last day of the camp, where photo and interview opportunities will be available. For more information or to arrange coverage, contact Catholic Extension’s PR representative, Lisa Gunggoll, at lisa@lg-pr.com or call 708.829.8669.

About Catholic Extension:  Catholic Extension uniquely contributes to the growth and vibrancy of the Catholic Church in the United States by strategically investing in poor mission dioceses.  Based in Chicago, this national organization provides funding to dioceses and parishes to support programs and services that invest in people, their ministries and their churches.  Since 1905, Catholic Extension has distributed more than $500 million to communities across America. For more information visit www.catholicextension.org.