Big Lake Accepts Donation From Inmates at Oregon State Penitentiary

December 01, 2007 | Jillany Wellman

Angelina Cameron-Wood, then Abba’s Child coordinator, in the spring of 2006, set about the task of informing the public of Big Lake’s newest camp: Abba’s Child. Abba’s Child is a camp that ministers to children who have lost a loved one. To promote the camp, Cameron-Wood sent fliers to all the hospices in Oregon, not knowing that one would reach some inmates at the Oregon State Penitentiary.

Almost a year later, Monte Torkelsen, Big Lake Youth Camp director, received a phone call from the penitentiary asking permission to raise money for Abba’s Child. Torkelsen agreed, and three months later, he received a second phone call from the prison saying that money had been raised and a check was waiting. Greg Phillips, then Big Lake’s associate director, volunteered to visit the prison and accept the check on behalf of the camp. Much to his surprise, Phillips was fully processed into the prison and led into the cafeteria where a party was already underway. His presence completed the festive mood, as he was the recipient of the check and guest of honor.

Two groups of inmates, The Lifers and WISH, were responsible for raising the funds. They discovered Abba’s Child after finding the flier that the prison hospice received almost a year prior. They decided to join together and make it a mission to raise money for Abba’s Child. The result of these two groups joining forces was $1,500—no small feat for these inmates who make anywhere from $15 to $40 a month! The inmate responsible for initiating and organizing the fundraiser explained to Phillips that he has a special place in his heart for children who have lost a loved one, as his own children had experienced a similar loss.

Big Lake is always grateful for the generosity of individuals who contribute to the camp and its ministry. It is these kinds of stories and acts of unbelievable generosity that remind us of Big Lake’s main goal: to be a life-changing experience for kids and show them God’s ever-present grace, goodness and love.