For the past seven years, DeeAnn Hodge has poured her heart into the lives of young girls in Williamson County and beyond through her ministry, Camp Wonderfully Made. She was honored as the 2014 recipient of the Mary Catherine Strobel Volunteer Innovator Award and continues to impact young lives every day. Welcome today’s FACES profile, DeeAnn Hodge!
Tell us about your background. Where were you born and raised?
I was born and raised on the outskirts of Williamson County. I remember when the only shopping center in Brentwood was the one with Baskin-Robbins, Lee’s Apothecary and The Red Geranium. I have spent my entire life in Nashville, except for the years I attended college at The University of Tennessee at Knoxville. I love Southern hospitality and big family. I have 29 first cousins, and nearly all of them live in the Nashville area. I love the traditions of the South. Good manners, casseroles, baked goods, sweet tea and thank you notes are necessities. So much of what I teach at Camp Wonderfully Made comes from my upbringing and Southern roots.
I hear that your daughter was a large piece of the inspiration behind Camp Wonderfully Made. Tell us how the camp came to be what it is today.
My daughter, Caroline, was diagnosed when she was 3 years old with a speech disorder called Developmental Apraxia. She had a difficult time pronouncing any sounds clearly. I prayed that God would give her confidence and that she would know that she was wonderfully made for a purpose. As I walked my dog one day, the Lord spoke to me about starting a camp for girls where they could take joy in who God had made them to be and that they would learn to use the unique gifts God had given them to serve other people. I would call it Camp Wonderfully Made, which comes from Psalm 139:13-14 in the Bible. I went home and brought the idea up to my husband, Freddy, and my sister, Gina, who agreed that it was a good idea. I printed up some brochures and sent them to some of my friends. I remember being on my knees praying, “Please Lord, just let someone sign up!” Camp Wonderfully Made has now been going for seven years. Caroline has been working with me since the beginning as a well-loved counselor. The rest of my family—Freddy, Will and Griffin—are all involved and fully supportive! Registration is in February and is done online beginning at 6:30 a.m. Camp is full with a waiting list within five minutes of registration opening. I weep every year as I watch the numbers come in! All glory goes to God, who gave me the idea and continues to cover this camp!
What are your other passions in the community?
Two years after I started Camp Wonderfully Made, the Lord laid it on my heart that camp should be for all little girls, not just those in Williamson and Davidson counties. I made several phone calls to people in the community where I thought we could bring Camp Wonderfully Made to girls in lower income neighborhoods. Chan Shepard at Preston Taylor Ministries was the only one who returned my phone call. He agreed to meet with me and talk about Camp Wonderfully Made and my heart for working with the girls in that neighborhood. There was no question after meeting with him that Preston Taylor was exactly where the Lord wanted me to be. Camp Wonderfully Made has now partnered with PTM for the past four years. PTM sends 20 girls to camp each summer. We also have a weekly Bible study and holiday parties with the girls throughout the school year. It brings me such joy to see them discover gifts they weren’t aware that they had. Anything from art, singing, dancing, decorating cupcakes or just their gifts of compassion, humor and kindness.
Where do you see Camp Wonderfully Made in 10 years?
Obviously, my desire is for Camp Wonderfully Made to help as many girls as possible, but I have learned that God’s plan is not always my plan. I would love for the camp to have a permanent location that can accommodate even more girls.
What is the one good piece of advice you have been given?
I have had a lot of great advice from mentors like Bill Brown (headmaster emeritus at Brentwood Academy) and Melissa Trevathan (Daystar Counseling Ministries), but the best I have been given is from my dad and mom (David and Carolyn Booth). When I was faced with the growth of Camp Wonderfully Made, they advised me to recognize that my gift is working directly with the girls and to never let it grow to a point where I wasn’t doing what I love most.
When you are not preparing or running camp, what can we find you doing?
I work part-time at St. Paul Christian Academy as the lower school guidance counselor, where I love having the freedom to design and teach a Christ-centered curriculum. I also work at Brentwood Academy, coaching sixth-grade girls track. There is nothing better than watching a child finish a race that she didn’t think she could complete. Most of my free time and greatest joy is spent at Brentwood Academy, watching my youngest child, Griffin, participate in football, baseball and track. I love watching him as much as he loves participating! I also enjoy running and walking my dogs, Herbert and Honey Bee.
What books are currently found on your nightstand or e-reader?
I love Francine Rivers’ books. My favorite being Redeeming Love. I also have lots of different children’s Bible story books that I read all the time.
Are there any local events you are looking forward to attending in the next few months?
One of my favorite local events is the Nashville Flea Market. You can usually find me there most months wandering around sipping coffee looking for bargains. I also can’t wait to go see Earth, Wind & Fire/Chicago in concert at the downtown Nashville Ascend Amphitheater in August!
What is a favorite meal that you and your family enjoy in Williamson County?
Our family loves eating whatever my brother-in-law, Battle Page, cooks on the Green Egg! My nephew, Max Page, has his own business called Max’s Farm Fresh Vegetables (look him up on Facebook). There is nothing better than his fresh corn, squash casserole and tomatoes off the vine in the summer.
Name three things you can’t live without, excluding faith, family and friends.
I can’t live without my alone time. This is usually when I am running, but it is my time to think and pray. As I tell everyone, running is more for my mental health than my physical health. I also couldn’t live without music. You would laugh at all the diverse music I have on my iPod. I love everything from hymns, to country, to R&B. Last, but finally not least, I couldn’t live without coffee! Got to have it!
Today’s photos were taken by Heather Sisemore of Heather Sisemore Photography.