Written by Greg Dyson, director of Taylor Strickland Legacy Foundation and volunteer at Christ in the Smokies
My first experience of being a volunteer staff member for Christ in the Smokies was in 2020. It was an honor to be a part of this Christ-centered organization and to serve with such dedicated people. I was the “new guy” at the Passage to Manhood Camp—a five-day camp experience in the Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina —but I was welcomed warmly and was impressed by how everyone was extremely focused and helpful. I was excited when I arrived early with the rest of the volunteers and began the preparation for the week’s activities and for the camper’s arrival.
About midday, as the fathers and their sons began to arrive and get checked into their cabins, you could feel their excitement and apprehension. I got the feeling they too were curious about what would be happening throughout the week.
What happened next was where God showed up! Fathers and their sons shared time with one another and with the other campers. One of the most powerful experiences of the retreat is when the fathers and sons are led to share things that were previously held back from one another—feelings, secrets, real life-changing confessions—all of which models the CITS mantra to leave “nothing left unsaid.” Walls come down, and relationships grow. The lessons that are taught at CITS are truly inspirational and lead men to step out as Christians with a desire to grow together in Christ. These father and sons all leave as Christian men prepared to share the lessons they have learned and to leave “nothing left unsaid.”
“Nothing left unsaid” is also the mantra for the Taylor Strickland Foundation. This foundation, which was created by Tim and Toni Strickland after the loss of their son Taylor, provides scholarships to fathers and sons who have a desire to attend CITS’ Passage to Manhood Camp but would otherwise not be able to for financial reasons.
I do not have a son, so one might ask why I volunteered for a father-son camp. Well, in 1993 when Taylor was born, I was honored to be named as his godfather. It was a joy to watch him grow into an intelligent, polite, strong and witty young gentleman.
Taylor was always driven and determined, even from an early age. Whatever he did, he felt the need to be front and center. It was my job, as his godfather, to knock him down a peg or two from time to time. We would always roughhouse and wrestle. I was much bigger, of course, and would always pin him down and tell him to call me the “Fonz” (from Happy Days). Taylor would have rather had his arm broken than to say it! As he grew bigger and stronger and I grew older, I may have said it once… maybe. I will forever miss hearing him call me UG (Uncle Greg).
Taylor and his father Tim were fortunate enough to have attended Christ in the Rockies. The impact on their lives is the inspiration behind Tim and Toni’s forming CITS and Taylor’s Legacy Foundation. Personally, volunteering at CITS is like seeing Taylor still at it today—he has not stopped giving. Even though we cannot see him, he is out there, front and center with his dad!
Thanks to this ministry led by Tim and Toni Strickland, fathers and sons who attend are given the tools to bond, build strong relationships, share their Christian faith, and become the men God intended them to be—all with an understanding of how important it is to leave “nothing left unsaid.”