Saturday, July 4, 2009

Giving Back :: Joni & Friends Family Retreat 2009

This will definitely be my longest blog/image post e-v-e-r....this past week I spent three amazing days at the Joni & Friends Family Retreat at Spruce Lake Retreat in the Poconos trying to capture the spirit of this event in images. This retreat is a week-long, jam-packed amazingly fun vacation for families with special needs members. Volunteers, a.k.a. short term missionaries, are matched with a family member affected by a disability and spend the week helping them with activities and creating a friendship that often lasts many years. Parents and siblings also have special activities, meetings and worship times. This year the retreat theme was "Down on the Farm" and along with the popular annual events, like the talent show and water slide, there were wagon rides, a country fair, a hoedown and other farm related activities.

Some things are difficult to describe, and 'Joni Camp', as it is affectionately known, is really impossible to describe properly so about the best way to say it is "you just have to be there to understand." But knowing that many people will never get the chance to attend Joni Camp, the best way I can think to explain it is this: once you are there, you experience this other-worldly, overwhelming sense of peace, comraderie, patience, love and kindness that makes you forget about the rest of the world (and all its issues) and just relish in the fun activities and events planned by the Joni Camp staff, enjoy the wonderful food and simply spend time getting to know people. I was able to take our youngest and oldest kids with me, and was informed by the elder that we simply MUST attend the entire week next year, because this was the best vacation of her entire 10-year-old life!

So that is my text portion of this post~ now onto the images! Due to the passing thunderstorms last week, many of the events were moved indoors, so I was definitely feeling challenged in learning my equipment quickly in different settings and poor lighting conditions. I was pleased with how the images came out despite very little post-processing and came away with some images I will cherish because of the wonderful personalities that I can connect with them. I will post more images on the Circle of Life Photography page on Facebook since this series on the blog just barely touches the surface of what all goes on over the course of several days at camp. Please feel free to post a comment on what you think, or if you have been to Joni Camp, add a note about your experience to share with others just how special this time really is~ thanks!

The day starts off with some relay games for the teens

The water slide is always a huge hit...sometimes literally

Professional services, such as hair cuts, massages and painting nails are provided, and appreciated

Painting pots and planting herbs

Getting her turn on the "power swing"~ very popular with the young adults along with a rock climbing wall

Everyone looks forward to talent show night

Special friends

Adult morning worship

Doing the marshmallow prep for a mass making of s'mores...yummm


  1. Wonderful pics, Marci! My favorite is the little ones on the edge of the pool - so cute!

  2. i love all your images, you are very very talented :) Seeing these photographs give meaning to life :) they are very wonderful and very humbling

  3. wow... Thanks so much for your comment, Odessa, you made my day special! My hope is that people see these images and know there IS a deeper meaning to life~ and every one has a purpose. Any talent I have been given is truly a gift from God! Photography was not something I planned as a career but discovered through lots of prayer about where He wanted me to be. Blessings to you today!!

  4. These photos are wonderful and make me very homesick for "Joni Camp". What a wonderful homecoming it will be when we all see our Lord, but in the meanwhile we have Retreat ... a little taste of Heaven on earth!


This is where you can post your thoughts about the pics! If this was your session, feel free to comment or describe a little bit about your experience. If you're just checking out the post, do you have a favorite image? Thanks for sharing ;-)


Photo gallery website for proofing and additional info: 

Circle of Life Photography's page on Facebook~ Click HERE to add this page to your favorites!

Michelle Miller allowed me to link to her brilliant post about the art of photographing ... I simply cannot say it better myself! Click HERE to read the post.

Giving Back~ Organizations supported by Circle of Life Photography

In giving back, Circle of Life Photography's main goal is to help those experiencing extreme poverty and nourishing them with food, shelter and spiritual guidance. Education is a big part of helping people learn how to help themselves and change the downward spiral of poverty for a better future for themselves and their children. Locally, a more tangible way of giving back is through using my photography gifts to serve others who are experiencing crisis (see NILMDTS and Pillows of Love.)

Compassion International~ Haiti's Child Survival Project

In 2011-12, Circle of Life Photography makes a monthly $30 donation to the non-profit organization, Compassion International, whose goal is to change Haiti through the rescue, nuture and discipling of children during the critical early childhood years.

Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep Foundation

Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep Foundation (NILMDTS) gently provides a helping hand and a healing heart for families overcome by the grief and pain of the death of their newborn or infant. Offering gentle and beautiful photography services in a compassionate and sensitive manner is the heart of this organization. The soft, gentle heirloom photographs of these beautiful babies are an important part of the healing process. They allow families to honor and cherish their babies, and share the spirits of their lives. I am an active NILMDTS volunteer photographer for Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and Lancaster Women & Babies Hospital.

Joni & Friends Family Retreat

I am honored to be a volunteer photographer at the Joni & Friends Family Retreat in the Poconos (Spruce Lake Retreat) for a week each summer (click here for past blog post.) Joni & Friends seeks to serve as a ministry of outreach to people with disabilities and their families across the US and around the world. Families from around the country attend Family Retreats seeking relaxation, encouragement and a time to strengthen their family.