The Mission at Pleasant Ridge: To Serve the Underserved

It was in 1968 when the Greenville County Disabilities and Special Needs Board opened Camp Spearhead as a day camp on Paris Mountain.  In 1989, it transitioned from a day camp to a residential camp, and in 1990, it relocated to the Civitan site where it remained until three years ago.  Since then, it has been housed at the upgraded Pleasant Ridge Camp and Retreat Center in Marietta on Highway 11, and it has served as a model for and an invitation to other special needs groups.  In fact, Pleasant Ridge's mission is to serve the underserved populations, populations for whom there are critical challenges and few resources.  With each successive year, their range of services and offerings has expanded. 

According to Marty Daigle, Manager for Pleasant Ridge, the special needs groups that have taken full advantage of this state-of-the-art facility for the three years it has been open include Camp Courage, a camp for children from the Greenville Hospital System with cancer and blood disorders; Camp Spearhead, a camp for the mentally challenged; the Muscular Dystrophy Association camp; Camp Luv-A-Lung for those with breathing disorders; and the South Carolina Mentor Group, a weekend camp similar to Camp Spearhead, but for mentally-challenged adults.  Coming in for the first time September 7-9 is the Greenville Hospital System's New Impact Camp, a camp that will address obesity in teens to young adults.  Also currently in their sights is the Wounded Warrior program that will serve wounded veterans.

In the middle of developing the site, the realization hit:  It did not seem right to take public and private dollars and sink it into a place opened just in the summertime.  Pleasant Ridge needed to generate revenue.  It made sense to name the place something generic - Pleasant Ridge Camp and Retreat Center - to send the message that what happens here is more than just the summer season of camps.  What the new site allows is more flexibility.

Pleasant Ridge has 280 acres, 8 cabins that can sleep 20 people each, has universal accessibility for any and all activities including a climbing tower, zip line rides, archery, and all manner of arts and crafts.  The location is a beautiful natural setting that makes it a perfect choice for the special needs camps, but also make it a great choice for many other groups and purposes as well.  This June, the South Carolina Environmental Educators held their annual meeting there, and in August,  St. Joseph's had their seniors on site for a day to help prepare them for their senior year of high school. 

School groups are especially enthusiastic about retreats there because of the long list of really cool activities that are available for their recreation, and because of the environmental and outdoor labs designed for their education. 

Church groups hold retreats there, some for a day, some for an overnight or two.  For the most part, they prepare their own programs, and arrange for meeting space and meals, but they usually have the Pleasant Ridge staff plan an activity for their groups, such as a dance or hayride. 

Corporations are a good fit, too, for the team and trust-building activities, and because they make more use of the facility during the week.  There is also another good outcome from having corporations on the site:  Once they are made aware of the mission of Pleasant Ridge and the populations they are serving, they quite often want to return and support those efforts as volunteers. 

Other site uses include family reunions, weddings and receptions, and birthday party packages.

The beauty of each and every group booking is that the packages are customizable.  There are meetings with the leaders or main contacts to discuss their goals and how the staff can help them achieve the outcomes they would like.  Whether for a day or overnight, with meals or without, with their own programming or a buffet of programming and activities from which to choose, the staff accommodates each group skillfully.  The accolades they get are confirmation that they are on the right path.  The comments range from it is so emotional, so uplifting, so incredible, so amazing. 

For more info on Pleasant Ridge Camp and Retreat Center, please visit http://pleasantridgecampandretreatcenter.org/

For a virtual 360-tour of Pleasant Ridge, go to http://www.spinatour.com/sys/spearhead/tour.html

For more info on other Greenville County Recreation District programs, please visit http://greenvillerec.com/

For more information on the camps, please visit these websites:

For Camp Spearhead:  http://greenvillerec.com/activities-and-programs/camp-spearhead-temp

For Camp Courage:  http://www.ghschildrens.org/camp-courage.php

For Muscular Dystrophy Association:  http://mda.org/office/greenville

For Camp Luv-A-Lung:  http://www.ghschildrens.org/camp-luv-a-lung.php

Photo Credits: Pleasant Ridge Camp and Retreat Center 

Jean Calvert is a fine-arts kind of girl based in Greenville, South Carolina. With a degree in Communications Design from Pratt Institute in New York, Jean combined her interest in graphic arts and writing.  She is additionally a jazz and blues singer.  Please visit her website for links to all performances.   http://www.jeancalvert.com