A new-look Week of Champions will kick off Monday at Chaplin Park.
However, Lisa Richardson, an area representative for Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and everyone involved in the camp, now in its 37th year, hope it will be the same old success. One of FCA's signature events welcomes kids ages 8 to 12 from around Beaufort and Jasper counties to a series of sports clinics designed to help them improve their skills with the aid of local coaches and former athletes, with an additional focus on spiritual growth.
For the first time, the Week of Champions will charge participants. In March, South Coastal FCA director Paul Cifaldi said last year's camp, which was free for kids, lost $40,000, something that wasn't sustainable. The camp, Richardson said, was so successful that it got too big.
That has led to some tweaks to the camp's structure and itinerary, but Richardson sees the changes as positives and says she feels the early returns will be good.
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"We felt like we wanted to change a few things to better deepen the experience of the campers," Richardson said.
Those changes include a new fishing clinic Monday, along with golf clinics at two locations, with other clinics expanding to four days instead of two. That longer period is designed to help get kids get quality coaching throughout the week, with local instructors doing most of the leading.
In the past, former professional athletes volunteered as lead instructors. Now, Richardson says, they will take on more of a roving style, visiting various sites at three area high schools.
Among the athletes who will attend this year's Week of Champions are former Florida State and NFL running back Sammie Smith, who went to jail on drug convictions before "turning his life around," according to Richardson. Smith, now part of the FCA staff, is a sought-after public speaker. After Week of Champions, he's headed to speak with the Detroit Lions.
Also attending is longtime participant and former MLB pitcher Andy McGaffigan.
The camp once again will include cheer and softball clinics, added in recent years to include more girls in the event. Three high schools -- Hilton Head High, Battery Creek High and Bluffton High -- will host clinics in football, soccer, baseball and basketball. HHI and BC will also host volleyball and tennis clinics. Bluffton will host the softball program, as well as cheerleading.
Members of the University of Georgia cheer squad will be at Bluffton and Battery Creek to help with instruction.
Richardson said the number of participants signed up is about what FCA hoped for, with about 500 campers ready for a week of fun. FCA has offered scholarships to any family who can't afford the $50 fee for the four-day clinics, or a $15 fee for the fishing and golf.
"We've offered scholarships. We do have scholarship money still available," Richardson said. "I think we may get the same number or exceed it as last year. I don't think we turned anyone away by putting the fee in."
Clinics run from 9 a.m. to noon each day. FCA will host a barbecue on Thursday evening for camp participants.
Registration closes at 9 p.m. Sunday. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 843-290-9801.
Follow reporter Kendall Salter at twitter.com/IPBG_Kendall.