Who Are We?
Camp Deer Run is a Christian Youth Camp located in East Texas. We are devoted to providing young people with a place where they can simply experience God while having the most fun of their life.
Established in 1958 CDR’s founders desired that the camp be a refuge from the world for young people. The intention was to provide a place where children could enjoy the outdoors in a safe and Christ-like environment. Though having grown many times its original size, CDR has remained true to its founder’s intent. Today Camp Deer Run provides refuge from the world for over 1200 campers each summer. Through a fun and Christ-centered camping experience led by college students our campers are growing in their love for God, learning about Him and having so much fun. We are fully committed to providing the Deer Run experience each summer to our campers. We know and have faith that God will continue to make an impact through CDR.
CDR exists to provide a camping experience where God is seen, His love felt and lives are transformed into the image of Jesus Christ. Isolation in God’s creation helps CDR provide an environment that is ideal for revealing God’s power. Our campers feel God’s love as they are ministered to by our college age staff members. God uses these young staff members in powerful ways as they counsel, teach, and encourage our campers. As our campers have fun, develop friendships, and find role models among our staff a deep desire to know God is born or remembered. Because our campers look up so highly to the staff there is a great opportunity for teaching. Camper’s faith can come alive because they relate to the person teaching them. Through traditions, through fun and through a hard working staff God makes a powerful impact. Our mission is simply to provide this experience so that lives may be changed and so that God may be glorified in our efforts.
How are we funded?
Camp Deer Run is a 501 (c)(3) not-for-profit organization. What does that mean? In short, our goal is not turn a profit, but to provide a service to young people and to teach them about Jesus Christ. We have always desired to keep our camper fees low and to do so we are dependent upon donations. Camper fees cover only initial operating expenses. All additions and improvements to the camp are made possible by the generosity of those who support this ministry monetarily. CDR is supported by many congregations of the church of Christ. CDR also gains support from individuals and we are truly grateful for all the support. You too can help support this wonderful mission, visit our Donate page to find out how. We know and have faith that God will continue to provide all that we need to continue in His service. He has often placed churches and individuals in our path in answer to prayers.
Full Time Staff
Board of Directors
Emily Hartsell first experienced Camp Deer Run in the summer of 1997. After camping and working on Staff, she also married a lifelong Deer Runner, Cameron. They have two kids who are both Deer Run campers too.
"For those of us living in the city, Camp is a tool that God uses to show us his creation and his people that is so different from our every day - and that is life-changing."
Beginning in 1975, Randy enjoyed 6 years as a camper followed by four years working as summer staff. His wife, Patti was a camper in the 1980s and all of their three children have both camped and worked on summer staff. Randy has served as a member of the Board of Directors since 2010.
"God continues to use Camp Deer Run as a sacred place where young people can put away the distractions of the world for a few days so that they can clearly see God manifested through nature and through the examples of the Summer Staff."
Mary Brown has served as a Board Member for Camp Deer Run since the Fall of 2019. She was a camper in 1988 and served on Staff for three years in 1996-1998. Mary met her husband Lane Brown, a fellow Deer Run Staffer, while they both worked and served here. They have two fantastic teenagers, Dane and Sydni, who have also enjoyed their time as campers and have been impacted by the wonderful work and service of Camp Deer Run.
Clay enjoyed 9 great years as a camper at CDR beginning in the Summer of 1988. He then worked for 6 years on staff and met his wife Maurine there in 2001. He proposed to her just behind the crafts hall where he carved her wooden ring the following summer! Now they get to watch their five daughters enjoy the place that means so much to both of them.
"Camp Deer Run continues to effectively introduce children to God and model what it looks like to serve him. Those two things sound somewhat understated, but the reality is that they make a profound impact on a lot of people that lasts a lifetime."
Dr. Jay first went to Camp Deer Run in 1962. He camped every year after that until he began working on Staff from 1969-1974. He met his wife, Gay Hobbs Spencer, while they were working on Staff. In 1989 and 90 they came back to help fill the role of Director during a time of transition. His three children were campers every year they could go, and all of them worked multiple years on Staff. He now has 11 grandchildren who are all campers. Dr. Jay has served on the board of directors since 1994.
"At Camp one can almost escape the world and its distractions. Once there is a little quiet, the campers are able to focus on their faith. With the staff teaching and modeling Jesus in God’s wonderful creation, it all begins to come together and a deeper faith that is their own emerges. This all happens while everyone is having the time of their life and forming relationships that will last a lifetime."