Scenic view of trees at camp

Scholarships for Hope

by Sarah Jane Souther


Pine Cove’s scholarship fund launched in January 2009 as a response to the financial crisis that had begun the previous year. The leadership team at Pine Cove recognized how important camp could be for families who were struggling—a beacon of hope in a time when their lives felt upended by hardships, financial and otherwise. The team bounced around many names for the project, brainstorming titles that could carry spiritual significance, but after a lengthy back and forth, Mario “High 5” Zandstra, then Pine Cove’s President and CEO, asked, “What’s the average amount of money we give out as a scholarship?” An accountant crunched the numbers and came back with an answer: $319. Everyone was in agreement—Project 319 would be the name of the new scholarship fund. That first year, Pine Cove supporters raised over $700,000 to send kids to camp. 

Though the average individual scholarship is now approximately $900—and the fund itself is getting a new name–the life-blood of the project has remained the same: providing hope to kids in need. “Scholarships are an absolutely critical part of Pine Cove’s ministry,” explains Zack “Checkout” Aspegren, Pine Cove’s Chief Development Officer. “Our desire is to never turn anyone away due to financial constraints. As families face difficulties—often to situations beyond their control—we want to respond with the blessing of Pine Cove.”

Summer camps provide an opportunity for kids to find respite from whatever challenging circumstances they may be facing at home, and a place where they can experience the Gospel in action through the lives of counselors and staff. “Camp is often a place of healing for families and youth who have faced trauma. There is nothing better than a week at camp to experience God’s faithfulness and see His goodness,” Zack says. The Pine Cove team reviews each scholarship application with the goal of generosity in mind. “If there is any way to help someone get to camp… our answer is most often ‘yes,’” Zack continues.

blog%2FAmyKidd-Scholarships-Then-Now (Left): Amy’s kids arriving at the Pine Cove Towers in 2014. (Right): Amy (center) and her children at the Shores in 2022.

Amy Kidd, a teacher, photographer, and single mom of four, was able to send her children to camp because of this generosity. Over the years, Pine Cove’s scholarship program has provided up to 90% of the funding needed for Amy to send all four of her children to camp. 

“[Pine Cove] truly valued my family and my children and what my hopes were for them,” Amy says. For Amy’s family, camp became so much more than just a fun week in the summer. Her kids would come back from their time at camp and tell their mom that it had been the best week of their lives—every single summer. Pine Cove gave Amy’s kids consistency, something to look forward to that they deeply loved. But it also gave them hope during a time when they were dealing with personal heartbreak at home. Their father was absent from their lives, but a week away at camp would bring much needed encouragement and hope, and ground them in the truths of God’s Word. “[Their time at Pine Cove] reminded them that God is truly their Heavenly Father and He is for them and they have a hope and a future,” Amy says.

“Their time at Pine Cove reminded them that God is truly their Heavenly Father and He is for them and they have a hope and a future.”

But that week became a respite for Amy as well. The four-hour drive from her home to Pine Cove gave her space to reflect on God’s faithfulness. And during the week that her children were away she would rest and pray about what she saw going on in their lives: areas where they needed healing, goals that they had, and how she could help them grow. 

Throughout the years, Pine Cove was a place that Amy trusted completely with the souls and minds of her children. The overall excellence, the quality of the counselors, and the intentionality that was applied to every aspect of camp gave her confidence that her children were in a place that would foster their spiritual growth and beneficially impact their futures. “Pine Cove changed the trajectory of our family,” Amy says.

Her two youngest children, twins, are now seniors in high school and experienced their last summer at camp in 2022. Both have dreams of becoming counselors and continuing to be part of Pine Cove’s legacy. They want to encourage the next generation of campers and give away some of the same hope they received because of the generosity of Pine Cove scholarship donors.

“Summer camps provide an opportunity for kids to find respite from whatever challenging circumstances they may be facing at home, and a place where they can experience the Gospel in action through the lives of counselors and staff.”

Karen Marshall, whose father was the first architect Pine Cove hired, is also committed to investing in the lives of future campers. She has been giving faithfully to Pine Cove’s scholarship fund for over ten years. “I am totally committed to giving to Pine Cove,” she shares. Karen has watched her children and grandchildren attend Pine Cove’s summer camps and has seen first hand how it has impacted their lives. “My granddaughters have gone to every camp through 8th grade (the grade they are in now) and come back every year with a renewed spiritual commitment. I saw one of my granddaughters this year want to take her Bible to school one day. Her dad asked her why and she said, ‘Listen, I have friends that need Jesus.’”

But not all of the scholarship program donors are adults. This past summer Pine Cove’s summer staff collectively gave $226,590. Even campers feel led to donate. One such donor is Katie Schmitt, a sixteen-year-old camper from the Ridge. Katie gives to Pine Cove’s scholarship fund from the money she earns working odd jobs. Her mom writes, “[Katie] saves her money from babysitting, mowing the lawn, and [getting] good grades to help others have a chance to attend camp as she does every summer in the hopes that they would meet Jesus there and grow in their faith.” 

blog%2FKatieSchmitt-Scholarships-Letter Katie Schmitt, seen here on her way to the Pine Cove Ridge, saves money each year to help kids come to camp.

A Pine Cove summer camp has the potential to forever alter the trajectory of a child’s life. Whether it is their introduction to the Gospel or the place where they see God’s word confirmed and lived out, the impact of that week will reverberate into their future. Time at Pine Cove can bring hope to heavy hearts, create space for rest, and immerse children into a place where they are loved and cared for in every aspect of their being. Scholarships bring these blessings to missionary families, families that face financial barriers, and those with family members in active military service and first responder positions.

The gift of camp is a way to show the Father’s love to those who most need it. He delights to bring hope to those who are downcast and honors the generosity of His people as they share His love with those who are suffering. 

“If you, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more does your Father in heaven know how to give good things to those who ask him.” Matthew 7:11. 


The Project 319 scholarship program is now known as The McKenzie Scholarship Fund! This new name was selected to honor our founder, Bill McKenzie and his faithful family. 

Posted Jan 2, 2023

Sarah Jane Souther

Guest Author

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