The Gift that Keeps on Giving

The Gift that Keeps on Giving

By Tammy King McDaniel

In Honor of Gladys King, mother of SYC Director, Grady King and Tammy McDaniel on July 13, 2014 to SYC Campers.

In thinking about what to say tonight about my mom and her love for Sooner Youth Camp, several thoughts came to mind. But I really think that the one things that rings true is that it is hard to remember when SYC was not a part of her life.

My family was introduced to Sooner in 1969, the year we move to Eufaula, Oklahoma. Yes, its true if you are doing math that was 45 years ago. In the summer of 1969, my brother, Grady attended Sooner for the first time being introduced to it by the Lay family of McAlester, OK. Our mom was a single parent, a relatively unheard of term in that day and age. Money was always tight and sending Grady to camp was a financial hardship. However, mom was not going to let that stop him from going to camp. Believe it or not, Grady was shy, and as I recall a little apprehensive about going to camp. But mom loaded him up and I tagged along for our first of many treks to Sooner Youth Camp.

That trek has continued for Grady for some 40 years with our mother a part of many of those years until her health prevented her from traveling and enduring the July heat at SYC. You see, Grady has spent the majority of his birthdays at Sooner Youth Camp. For our mom, distance was not an issue to celebrate his birthday! She would make her fabulous strawberry cake, pile me in the 1950 Ford, with no air conditioning and head to Sooner for Grady’s birthday celebration.

It became a Sooner tradition for Grady, our family and the SYC family. Even after “camper status” had come and gone, Mom continue to make the “trek” as Grady became a staff member.

Our mom knew the difference that a camp experience can make in a young person’s life. She saw it first hand in her son, a shy and withdrawn boy wearing horned rimmed glasses as well as the other kids that made the journey each summer. Upon her death last October, many of the reflections that were shared with us were from Sooner campers who had experienced mom all those summers.

Our mom would have never considered what she did as extraordinary or a sacrifice. “That’s just what mothers do for their children” she would say. But we see what she did much differently. So, it is only fitting that when mom passed, that we establish a scholarship fund in her honor so that other youth who might not have the means to come, could have the Sooner experience. Some of you here tonight as a result of the scholarship funds. There’s nothing besides her children and grandchildren that would make mom more proud than knowing she has helped make Sooner Youth Camp available for some young people who cannot afford it.

So, we honor our mom tonight and pray that through you, the Sooner tradition will continue to bless the lives of youth for generations to come. I am confident she is smiling and humming, “My God and I.”

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Youth Camp #1
Lake Murray State Park
13528 Scenic Highway 77
Ardmore, OK 73401