The East Coast Camp, a youth summer camp founded by Ferrum’s own Alums Darrell and Bonnie Huffman, seeks to “touch the next generation by giving them a week that can really change their lives and bring them into reality with the Lord.”
Pastor Darrell Huffman and his wife Bonnie met 50 years ago this August in 1973 at Ferrum College. He was here to play football under legendary Coach Hank Norton, and she was here to earn a degree in business. “We met during registration…Coach Norton had players register for the upcoming semester in between 2-a-day practices,” pastor Huffman recalled.
He and a teammate left practice heading to registration in football workout attire, and they ran into Bonnie and her identical twin sister outside the library. Darrell and his teammate decided to introduce themselves. “We ended up having a class together which led to me asking Bonnie to the Homecoming dance, Bonnie accepted, and the very next week we started dating.” The couple still giggles when they talk about sharing one of their very first kisses on the Adams Lake bridge.
After playing on the 1974 Championship Black Hats team, Huffman transferred to East Tennessee State University (ETSU) on scholarship, and after they were married, Bonnie joined him. Darrell wanted to teach and coach, but kept feeling in his heart “you’re calling is to preach”. Eventually, he became a youth minister at ETSU and went to bible school after college and began preaching in ‘78.
The couple later relocated to Huntington, WV, and planted New Life Church. In 2010, they had a vision to host a summer youth camp, which led to them contacting Ferrum about being the host location. “We thought ‘why not Ferrum?’ We would rather be here than somewhere else. The campus provides us everything that we need – housing, dining, lots of outdoor space, a chapel – all in one location, and it is safe,” Huffman shared.
“Who would’ve thought us dating here would lead to us now having all our family and campers here worshiping the Lord and finding their place in the kingdom of God which is needed in this day of age,” Bonnie added.
The camp started in Vaughn Chapel with about 75-80 kids. In those first few years, we averaged about 100 campers, then it grew to 150-200, and after they skipped 2020 due to COVD-19, attendance jumped to 300-400 campers and had to move ‘chapel’ to Swartz Gym. “Now, 681 campers are in attendance this year including our 6 grandchildren!”
The camp’s growth comes from Pastor Huffman’s vision to have partner churches and as the partnerships grew they changed the name from Fusion Camp to The East Coast Camp. This year, 24 partner churches brought youth Ferrum’s campus from nearby states of Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland. Many of these partnered youth ministers, pastors, and leaders are already looking forward to next year’s camp agreeing that “The East Coast Camp is OUR camp.”
“It is a joy and a privilege to host East Coast Camp at Ferrum College for the 15th year,” said College President, Dr. Mirta Martin. “Welcoming over 600 youth from all across the east coast for such a special experience is very meaningful to us. We are touched by the Huffman’s choice of location, their home at Ferrum College, and we look forward to continuing to share it with the youth they bring to us every year.”
“With good word of mouth marketing from these involved churches and through campers sharing their ‘change of life experiences’ with other youth, more churches around the east coast have already reached out to be a part of the next East Coast Camp, and we look forward to being back next summer,” affirmed Pastor Huffman.