McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

State House

June 20, 2014

Kids Enter His Gates this summer

Surrounded by the lush landscape of a tranquil, spring-fed oasis, kids at a summer horse camp are learning how to ride and follow the teachings of the Bible.

The sound of children’s laughter floats over the neighs and soft padding of horses’ hooves as the leaders at Enter His Gates Summer Camp instruct the kids on the final day of weeklong activities.

Enter His Gates hosts five sessions of one-week camps for 7- to 14-year-olds. Next week will be the last session of the summer.

Doris Williams, founder of Enter His Gates, said campers rotate through four sessions each morning: horseback riding, crafts, science and canoeing. In the afternoon, the kids receive a Bible lesson.

Williams said each lesson revolves around a common theme. This year, the kids are learning about “The Amazing Race.”

In the crafts session, campers huddle around a glitter and craft foam-strewn picnic table as they piece together elements of a hanging mobile that each represent a component of “The Amazing Race.”

“ ‘The Amazing Race’ talks about our walk with God and that we each have a choice in each of our lives to choose to walk with God or not,” said Jennifer Johnston, leader of the crafts session.

While many of the hands-on activities seem straightforward, Williams said they teach the kids deeper lessons about responsibility and the world around them.

“You’d be surprised how many of them don’t know that you can eat onions and beets that grow in the ground,” Williams said.

The responsibility comes in when the kids muck out the messy horse manure at the end of each session, keeping the campground pristine.

While the campers seem to enjoy all the sessions, horseback riding is the main attraction. Three round pens and an arena allow plenty of practice space for beginners and more experienced riders.

However, not all of the kids start out with confidence on horseback. Some refuse to ride altogether at first.

Williams points to a young girl who is dwarfed by the horse she’s riding, a considerably large horse by any standards.

“Look at that smile,” Williams said. “I love to see that. She was scared the first day of camp. Oh my goodness, all this riding has just made her come out of her shell.”

The girl does Egyptian movements with her arms and flings her hands up over her head as she maintains balance on the horse she was too scared to ride at the beginning of the week.

Williams moves from the small round pens to the larger arena, where several riders traipse about.

Lindsay Rutledge, a riding instructor, said the way the kids progress is amazing.

“The happiness on their faces when they achieve their goals, there’s really nothing better,” Rutledge said. “There’s nothing better in the world.”

Rutledge said many of the kids start out in the round pens and try to move to the more challenging arena by the end of the week.

“Boy, she has really got that horse’s number,” Williams said, watching a young rider turn a difficult horse back and forth with surprising skill.

Andrea Curry, a camp leader, said something about the horses is healing.

“This is like medicine for me, medicine for my soul,” Curry said. “The horses, they can sense how you feel, and you can release.”

Williams said she has seen this healing effect on some of the kids who come through the camp. She told the story of a father who told her his kids’ attitudes completely changed after attending the summer camp.

“It just changed their whole outlook,” Williams said. “They played the games they learned at camp with the kids in their neighborhood, and they hardly wanted to go outside before.”

As the last day of the week winds down for this group of campers, the leaders prepare for one last session meant for more experienced riders called “Trotters Camp.”

This year’s sessions have been completely full, with a lot of campers who are new to the program, Williams said.

Approximately one-third of the kids were able to attend on scholarships, she said.

Williams said she thanks Grace World Outreach Church and Emmanuel Baptist Church for their support of the camp, which reaches many children who come from broken or troubled homes.

After next week, Enter His Gates will finish off its seventh year of teaching children valuable life lessons through horses and nature.

For information about Enter His Gates, see

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