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Christmastime Gathering

Families based at Fort Gordon and Fort Jackson got a major change of pace over the weekend, with the backing of dozens of neighbors who pooled their resources to offer a three-day Christmas retreat at Gravatt Camp and Conference Center, northeast of Aiken.

This year's mix included dozens of golfers who took part in the Aiken-Augusta Wounded Warrior Charity Golf Classic, which provided a $10,000 boost for the event, covering about half of the budget of the ninth annual event at Camp Gravatt, as the facility is largely known. 

Attending this year were about 70 people, representing 16 families among them, with activities running from Friday through Sunday and ranging from a talent show to a "s'mores bar," said Kara Dye, Gravatt's director of marketing and development.

"A bunch of really fun, silly stuff" is included in the recipe for a successful weekend, said longtime Gravatt staffer Graham Knowles, a Clemson student who grew up in Chapin. "A lot of people come back because they had kids that came here for summer camp, but also, we just do a lot of really fun activities."

He added, "We have the canoeing, and all the stuff that brings kids to camp ... brings everybody back. We have archery, we have canoeing, we have art and ... it's really great to get people together and to have that kind of community in the holidays. People love it." 

Camp Gravatt's website notes that the gathering includes "delicious, homemade meals, making gingerbread houses, the high and low ropes course, canoeing, fishing, evening activities, a visit from Santa, and more."

Dye offered some thoughts on the reasons for offering the retreat.

"At Gravatt, we have some extended touches through the military. We have grandfathers or uncles – not necessarily our dads, but we feel especially called to do this for this group of people, because we're just so grateful to them, and we do it the best way we know how, which is through fun at camp, and that's the best kind of love we know how to do, so that's what we do every year at Christmas," she said. 

The 2019 golf tournament in support of the retreat is set for May 13, with Woodside Plantation Country Club as the host site, and Janney Financial as the major sponsor. Details are available at and 803-295-2614, and information on the annual retreat is at and 803-648-1817.

Bill Bengston/Aiken Standard