Recipients of the Taylor Strickland Legacy Foundation Scholarship
to Christ in the Smokies, Boy Scouts High Adventure and other camps
Joshua was an inaugural recipient of a TSLF scholarship to a Boy Scout High Adventure Camp to Philmont this summer. Joshua’s life reflects the character traits instilled in scouting; namely, reverence, leadership, community service, friendship, Scout values and love of the outdoors. Busy working toward rank of Eagle, Joshua took time off to not only attend camp, but helped carry extra weight to help out some of the smaller Scouts, divided up between everyone in his crew. Philmont is rigorous requiring physicality, energy and stamina, yet even once the trip had come to an end, Joshua said he could do it all again.
After attending Philmont Scout Ranch, Aiden said “No picture could capture how beautiful and amazing ‘Philmont’ actually is. This trip not only gave me friendships and built bonds that will last a lifetime, but it strengthened my love and passion for backpacking. I truly had the time of my life and made memories that will last a lifetime”. His Scout Master said that he believed that that opportunity will enhance Aiden’s life for years to come, that his faith was strengthened, and he continues to challenge himself and to serve others.
Steven & Jeremiah Earp
Steven and Jeremiah flourished in their time together during Passage to Manhood at Christ in the Ozarks. After the death of Steven’s wife/Jeremiah’s mother, this time away brought them closer together and opened greater windows of healing for both of them. Director of CITO, Jim Zalenski said “Steven and Jeremiah will be eternally grateful for the precious gift of Taylor’s Scholarship. It was a beautiful thing to witness and tangibly feel the pure joy of this father and son.”
Michael & Christopher Greene
Michael and Christopher came into camp needing time away. Sharing the week with “time in their room together” was valuable in quieting the noise of regular daily life, to focus on themselves and one another. They shared in some deep and profound conversations and opening up to each other. They left the week with a greater understanding of each other and themselves.
Karl & Mason Fuller
Karl and Mason have shared in a good father son relationship and while having had open communication since Mason was in his early teens, they both appreciated the opportunity to “have deep conversations”. Karl said “It’s something we don’t do on a daily basis, so it can be hard to start, but it’s good”. Mason felt they re-started having discussions they hadn’t had in a while, while Karl described them as “expanded conversations together”. Mason was impacted and enjoyed witnessing “everyone else get close to their fathers”. The leader who nominated Mason for the scholarship to CITS said that two of Mason’s outdoor favorite activities “are fishing (probably because of his dad) and sitting around a camp fire at night”, making CITS a perfect fit for these two guys.
Tom (Shef) & Mac Shefchunas
Shef and Mac were happy that camp allowed time for them to be in a “different gear than normal life”. They shared conversations within the program, but also in between, stepping outside at night watching the stars in the remote area. Mac remembered sitting and talking on the raft with his dad, during whitewater rafting, with “nothing and nobody around”. These moments of quiet allowed them to “walk through the next door” together and shift gears from father-son to brothers in Christ.” As Mac heads off to college in the fall, they were grateful to share in this time together commenting that “it is never too early or too late” to invest in each other.
Troy & Ethan Dollyhigh
On Ethan’s nomination form to attend camp on a TSLF scholarship, he was described as having a humble servant’s heart with a kind spirit that promotes opportunities. Those who attended camp with Ethan and his dad quickly found this to be true. Ethan is the oldest of six children. If you are familiar with big families, you know that oftentimes, the oldest children are called on to make sacrifices to help make all things work. Ethan excels at leading his brothers and sisters with daily life, and he and his father fully embraced their time away together (just the two of them) at Christ in the Smokies Passage to Manhood camp.
Sam & Sy Lovingood
After camp, Sam noted that their time away together allowed for much-needed “different level” discussions, both intentional and unintentional, because of one-on-one moments. More than once, Sam and Sy spoke of family legacy and the importance of the men who came before them. This father and son are proud of and embrace the generational bonds that have helped form who both of them are today. Sy said camp helped him open his and his father’s relationship to deeper levels.
Josh & Draven Leventhal
Josh walked away from camp saying, “I’ve never had a band of brothers who held me up—and that literally happened this week.” Because of their intentionality in setting aside time to be together, they feel they are better equipped to communicate with each other as men (not just father and son), and are committed to be deliberate in building their family’s legacy together as a team.
Todd & Connor Fields
The friendship that grows between father and son as they spend time away together, happens quickly, when given space. Todd loved the opportunity to do guy stuff with Connor. “Something supernatural happened at the river.” Connor, one of four sons, said, “I’ve never really hung out with dad like a friend and heard some of these things from him.” Building off that father-son man relationship, Connor also realized, “my dad can come to me, like I can go to him.”
Brandon Smith & Shannon Stanley
Brandon described camp as “Freedom!” He shares how camp “helped me unpack my own pain, but it also helped me build new memories that were miracles.” Shannon was struck by the “power of brotherhood and manhood.”
Isidro Alba & Christopher Sharp
Isidro and Chris attended CITS as a mentor/friend duo. Isidro had already been in Chris’ life when he lost his dad at 14, so this was a special time for them in their relationship. Isidro said, “I was making sure that he had the same experience the other young men had and wasn’t robbed of having a true breakout as a man and that experience that he’s entitled to.” Chris appreciated the intentionality of time to be open with no barriers and to share in hard conversations that continue growing who he is becoming as a man.
Matt & Grayson McKinney
Vulnerability is a common thing heard over and over by fathers and sons who attend CITS. Matt and Grayson have always had a strong bond, but mentioned that the opportunity to have this one-on-one time was overdue and impactful. They refined and opened lines of communication, letting their guards down without the distraction of everyday life. Grayson said he and his dad had some good times set aside to talk, and “I’m very grateful for that.”
David & Preston Clarke
Preston and some of the other sons at CITS this summer admitted that when their fathers had first brought up the idea of attending, they were less than committed to “a father-son retreat with a few random strangers.” But Preston ultimately concluded it was a “pretty beautiful thing.” “We made some good friends, and everyone clicked well,” he said, while also advising others to “come in with an open heart and attitude.” David shared that the focus on Jesus washed all the anxiety away.
John & Esteban Munoz
Last year when John brought his oldest son to CITS, he felt called to bring his youngest this year, and that’s what he did. Losing his father at age 10 has spurred John on to be the best father he can be to his sons. Esteban felt out of his comfort zone to come to camp, but he recognized the gift of having a father who is eager to spend time with him. He left CITS happy they had shared this experience.
Randy & Cole Brown
Regarding his experience at CITS, Cole said, “Expect the unexpected. I thought it was going to be mushy. We’re going to be real close to our dads. Then we get here, and it’s a just a bunch of people being straight up from the jump. They don’t start off walking you into it. They make you sprint, and it’s just something you can’t prepare for. I guess it’s in a way like manhood. You’re not ready for it, it just happens, and you have to learn how to adjust. You can’t do it alone. That’s why it felt really nice being able to come here and speak with other people and listen to them.”
Bill & Will Gerdes
One of the big takeaways from the week at CITS for Bill was that “in the spirit of Taylor, Toni and Tim, nothing is left unsaid.” “If I were to leave this earth today and slip off that mountain, you know where you and I are right?” he asked his son, Will. Will affirmed that was true and that “having the opportunity to leave nothing unsaid, especially with your dad” was key. “Guys aren’t going to be very emotional and very open with their dad,” but this time away provided that circumstance.
Todd & Carter Fields
During their week together at CITS, Todd commented that “it can be hard as men to find a place where you feel safe. Where you don’t have to strive or perform or hide. To be able to experience that with men is a win, but to be able to experience it with your son is life-changing and unforgettable.” Carter candidly shared that he originally wasn’t all in for a father-son retreat, but on the second day, he had a “wow” moment when “it changed” and he realized that he “needed it.”
Trip & Cameron Campbell
Trip brought his younger son to Christ in the Smokies. He said that he experienced a “transition to be more intentional about everything I do—as a husband, as a father, and as a leader in the environments where I have an opportunity to be a leader.” During the week Cameron had his “eyes open to a lot of what my purpose should be and really what I should be doing.”
Ari & Aiden Durham
As a young man, Aiden embraced the time at Christ in the Smokies, declaring, “The blessing from my dad really impacted me. I wanted to know what he thought of me. I wanted to hear my dad say that ‘you’ve got what it takes.’” Ari enjoyed that “everything was intentional, relational and Christ-centered with the backdrop of outdoor adventure.”
Chris & Brock Davis
Chris described his experience at Christ in the Smokies as “an incredible meaningful time to focus on being a better father and husband. It has changed me to live a meaningful life with others and Christ.” His son Brock shared that it was “a life-changing experience that taught me how to be a leader and how to grow my relationship with my father and God. It gives me incentive to not fall back in to sin.”
Mike & Josiah Gross
During their time together at Christ in the Smokies, Mike said he and his son learned “to share our feelings with one another and to know that even though life is hard, entering manhood, we are walking side by side now as we serve our Father. And to not be afraid to ask any questions… There’s something about a community of men, and the two of us are a community of men.”
Daniel & Andrew Watkins
After attending Christ in the Smokies, Andrew shared, “It was a great unexpected bonding with my father on what it means to be a man.” Daniel noted the challenges that men face. “Men do not want to be vulnerable. They are not good at sharing their feelings. They don’t know how to do it, how to show weakness and failure. Dads struggle to do that with their sons.” For Daniel and Andrew it was “an absolutely fantastic week with my son. It gave Andrew and I time to think deeper about some issues.”
Mike Teston & Evan Morris
Mike invited his son-in-law to attend Christ in the Smokies with him. Evan said, “I came up to Christ in the Smokies not knowing what to expect. I came up with open hands. The first night we had immediate authenticity. That was the hook for me. It was worth it because it was real. A lot of truth was communicated. We had a fun time. We grew. It reinforced so many truths we may gloss over.”
John & Sebastian Munoz
Sebastian describes Christ in the Smokies’ teaching as “breaking the chains of apprehension that societal masculinity teaches—to make a man through vulnerability and authenticity”.
Scott & Ethan Brookins
After attending Christ in the Rockies, Ethan said, “The week was a time of re-evaluating and re-centering my life and focus.” Scott felt blessed by the camp and to have such an amazing time with his son.
Tim & Jack Baker
Tim describes the week away as “Soul feeding. Jack and I were already really close, but this really enhanced and accelerated our love for each other.”
David & Drew Henriksen
“A MUST-do for fathers and their sons who are entering adulthood,” David shared. “Christ in the Smokies offered a unique and compelling combination of adventure, father/son growth time, and fellowship with men. This was one of the defining moments for my relationship with Drew—and one we will never forget. The agenda was just right—not too packed, but with great content and activities. Thank you to Tim and Toni and the entire CITS team for an incredible experience!”
Bailey & Mitchell Lamb
Bailey shared that “CITS has changed our relationship. It has brought us closer through the deep, meaningful father-son discussions.” Mitchell confirmed his father’s reflection, saying it was “incredibly impactful to my relationships with both my earthly father and heavenly Father. Gave me an entire new perspective on where to go in life from this point on.”
Greg & Grayson Routt
“Prior to attending, besides my desire for Grayson to reconnect with Christ and a strong desire to present him with his blessing at age 25, we both went into this trip with your motto of leaving nothing unsaid… and for 4 1/2 days and nights we did just that,” Greg shared. “This resonated with Grayson and me. Words can truly never adequately describe the feeling or moments in time last week, especially during the blessing, hiking/river trip talks, and Passage to Manhood Ceremony. It’s a special gift that Grayson and I are tremendously grateful for and truly wish every dad and son could experience.”
John & Dave Woodall
“Christ in the Smokies provided my son and me an opportunity to be together, experience great adventures together, and share words of love and life and blessing that we would not say in normal day life and living,” John said. “Thank you, Stricklands and team, for creating the perfect environment for fathers and sons to connect at the deepest of levels. It will NEVER be forgotten.”
Russ & Tyler Sommer
Russ shared, “My son Tyler heard Tim speak about Christ in the Smokies at North Point Community Church, brought the brochure home, and said to his mom, ‘I want to do this with Dad.’ His mom and I divorced when he was very young, and I was not as involved with him as he needed me to be early in his life. In the past several years, we have spent more time together, and I have become more involved, but there was always a desire on both our parts to build a deeper relationship. So now at 18, he invited me to attend this retreat, and I am so glad he did. I am also so very grateful that Taylor’s foundation provided a way for us to go. This was a real bonding time for Tyler and me. We learned more about each other in one short week than we have in years. All the vital elements were there: discovery, learning, adventure, challenge and fellowship with other fathers and sons. We learned solid principles that serve to equip and grow us in the journey of manhood, all set against the backdrop of the beautiful Smoky Mountains. I would tell every father and son to come to Christ in the Smokies and experience a new level of closeness in your relationship.”
Scott & Blaise Robinson
Blaise attended Christ in the Rockies in Colorado in June 2017 with his father Scott. Blaise and Scott said their experience was life-changing, fulfilling their expectations for a father-son adventure.
Wade & Bennett McKinney
In June 2017, Wade and his son Bennett participated in Christ in the Rockies in Colorado. Bennett was nominated for this trip by his church small group leader because of his pursuit of relationship with God, leadership qualities, service to community, love of the outdoors and strong values.
David & Preston Mitchell
David and his son Preston attended Christ in the Rockies in Colorado in July 2017. Preston shared, “It was a wonderful trip this summer that was truly something my father and I will never forget. We learned a lot together, and he and I will hold that trip and those memories very close in our hearts.”