Advance Camp USA is a program new to Tennessee that offers young men from fatherless homes the opportunity to learn practical skills while building relationships with others and with Christ. Chad Wallen, the founder of Advance Camp USA, is the son of a former correctional officer. Growing up, his father explained to him the extremely high number of men in prisons who came from fatherless homes. “My heart has always been in a place of prevention
versus recovery,” says Chad. “That’s where the heart of this came from – a place of prevention for young men coming up in our communities without dads.”
The first Advance Camp originated in Oregon as an activity for young men whose mothers were involved in the Single Moms Ministries. Chad and his family later moved to Texas and started Advance Camp USA there. Meanwhile, a mentor and friend of Chad’s from Oregon urged him to bring Advance Camp USA to Tennessee. Two or three months after new programs in Oregon and Florida were in motion, Chad was inspired to open up conversations which eventually led to the first Advance Camp USA in Tennessee. “Doors started blowing open,” says Chad.
HopeUC Nashville, a church in Thompson’s Station, reached out and expressed how deeply the mission of Advance Camp resonated in their hearts. Advance Camp USA meets in Thompson’s Station, but it sets out to take the campers wherever they need to go to learn. If they’re going to learn how to work on bikes, they go to bike shops. If it’s cars, they go to auto shops. Fishing, they go to the lake. They teach trades, they mentor young men, and they share biblical scripture at lunchtime. True identity is what they want to show them. So many young men struggle with the idea of being genetically predisposed to the behavior of their fathers. They are inclined to believe they will naturally follow in their footsteps. Advance Camp pushes back against that and helps them to discover an identity all
If you ask Chad what Advance Camp’s biggest need is, the answer is not money – it’s awareness. Through awareness, everything else finds its way to them. When people hear about Advance Camp and what they offer to young men, sometimes they offer a donation. But just as importantly, they may offer their time as a mentor or their teaching skills as a professional of one of the trades they want the men to learn. An average camp hosts between twelve and fifteen young men at a time. Right now, the camps take place once every quarter, but as the program grows, it will hopefully reach a schedule of every other month or even every month. Currently, there are 26 Advance Camps throughout the year, and Chad flies to nearly all of them himself to host the program.
The next Advance Camp USA in Thompson’s Station is scheduled for this April. Registration is available up until the week before camp. Those interested may find more information and register at AdvanceCampUSA.com
“It’s all about creating awareness to fall onto the right hearts and into the right hands.”
Chad Wallen, originally from Oregon, now lives in Granbury, Texas with his wife Kelsey and their three daughters. He and his family have fostered 15 children over the course of eight years. His passion is changing the trajectory of the lives of fatherless young men.