Doe River Gorge offers prime bonding experiences for fathers and sons

Tony Casey • Sep 15, 2013 at 9:34 PM

HAMPTON — One would be hard pressed to find a frown at the Doe River Gorge Father/Son Challenge.

The weekend retreat, focused on father-and-son bonding, featured a wide range of outdoor activities, including zip lines, rides on the humongous Unimog military vehicle, horseback riding, swimming in the man-made lake, getting blasted off a blob into the water, carving walking sticks, rock climbing and more.

Check out video of all the activities below.

Staff and campers agreed that their favorite part of the three-day weekend event was a mixture of teaching scripture and giving a chance to bring fathers and sons together.

Terry Maughon, president of Doe River Gorge Ministries, said he’s been lucky enough to see family’s grow before his eyes, year to year.

“I like to see father-and-son bonding that will last a lifetime,” Maughon said. “And it’s neat to see the kids grow through the years.”

Maughon and program director Ryan Vernon both said they have had a series of lessons for the perennial pairings that continue to come back. Vernon said each year has a theme to it, to match up with a scripturally based teaching. This year, he said, the theme is “Walk,” and campers will be whittling and designing their own walking sticks.

Vernon was the operator of the Unimog, which goes up, over and through everything in its path, all while carrying 16 passengers.

One father-son duo who grew up with Doe River Gorge Ministries as it evolved was Joe and Jose Castillo, who also performed as guest speakers at the retreat.

Joe Castillo, who has lived a great deal of his life in Johnson City, is an artist famous from his performance as a finalist on the television show “America’s Got Talent.” He did a special Salsa version of his sand story art, while his son, Jose, who lives in Johnson City, concocted the dish for the audience, explaining how each father and son share stories, like ingredients, that make them into a special final product.

“It was a blessing for dad and I to get to do this together,” Jose said.

Joe appreciated the activities available, saying it was a three-day weekend of spiritual renewal.

It’s not the Cadillac, it’s the Lamborghini of summer camps,” Joe said.

The Castillos weren’t only there to perform, they also wanted to take in all the fun they could. They each made fire pokers during a blacksmith activity.

A common phrase around the railroad-styled camp was that it was a special place.

The Filippones, Ed, 48, and his son, Jacob, 16, who had been to the camp the last five years, shared the idea that long-lasting relationships were being developed in their time there.

“My favorite parts are all the activities and the teaching,” Jacob said as he and father made their way onto the zip lines. “It’s the kind of place where you’ll have fun and make friendships that last for a long time.”

Ed said the place was so special that he could overcome his fear of heights every year.

The program brought in around 100 people, including lots of local campers and some from Canada and Orlando.

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