This month, the Sons of Pericles embarked on their inaugural Rising Sons Conference, located at the Diakonia Retreat Center in Salem, South Carolina. In July of 2019, the Rising Sons were formed at the AHEPA Supreme Convention. The program is meant to gather members of the organization, clearly interested in sustaining and progressing the Sons of Pericles, to prepare them to grow and lead within the organization as well as develop professional and life skills. The chosen members of the new program were allotted to appropriate committees, headed by those on the Sons of Pericles National Lodge, according to interests, academic focus, and/or career path.
Determined to highlight the program by setting up an annual Rising Sons Conference, SOP leadership aimed to combine a development conference with a service project, something encapsulating what it means to be a young Greek. Common themes on growing up Greek are “owning a Greek restaurant”, “going to Greek school”, or “playing church league basketball.” One facet overlooked, but just as valid, is attending Greek or Orthodox Summer Camp. Spending a week or two with Greek Orthodox friends, playing sports, doing arts and crafts, and team-building exercises are familiar experiences for Greek-American youth. Coordinating with the Metropolis of Atlanta, the SOP chose to travel to the Diakonia Retreat Center (referred to by community members as “the DRC”), which provides an opportunity for the youth of the Metropolis to attend a haven, far from the secular world, for one week at a time every summer.
Unfortunately, in April of 2019, the DRC was hit by a tornado.
It came through and destroyed a section of the forest; the section containing an entire ropes course, filled with structures and obstacles designed to promote teamwork, communication, independent and co-dependent activities, all with a faith-based lesson or two for participants. In addition to the ropes course and forest, many buildings, structures, and pathways were affected by the tornado’s strong winds and the debris they flung around. It has been almost a full year since the tornado, and the grounds are still recovering.
The Sons Service Weekend, dedicated to restoring and improving these beautiful grounds, brought in attendees from Chicago, Seattle, Calgary, Toronto, New York, Clearwater, Tampa, and Atlanta. Together they were able to restore parts of the dock, rebuild and improve the firepit, place new structures to hold all of the canoes used by the campers for swim, place tarps in order to reduce humidity and heat in some of the cabins, and search the grounds for any trash, potential hazards, and out of place items. The work around property and preparation of the grounds for campers took up the first half of the day, while the second half was focused on the organization and preparation of the Rising Sons to become stronger members of the organization and of the community, ready to take on the future. Meetings included committee reports and updates on Districts, time for sharing ideas to improve the organization, as well as strategies members have found to work for them on a local or District level.
Thrilled with the success and productivity of the weekend, the Sons of Pericles Supreme Lodge has announced their intention to continue these service weekends and conferences in the future, encouraging all to let SOP leadership know of any camps or youth centers/facilities in need of some maintenance, attention, and a little TLC.
Main photo caption: Rising Sons members gather united behind the Sons of Pericles banner for a weekend of Heritage, Service, and Brotherhood.