When John and Linda Stapleford initiated a scholarship fund for single parents, their aim was to provide families with a vacation they couldn’t otherwise afford, one that offered respite from their regular responsibilities: no cooking or cleaning, a schedule of meaningful speakers and activities, and the chance to connect with other Christian families.
For at least one single mom, the fact that someone empathized with her challenges enough to do something about it made a big impression. “I can’t believe someone was actually thinking about what I was going through as a single mom,” she told John.
John has been thinking about it for a long time. He was only seven when his father walked out, leaving his mom to raise two boys on her own.
“When you’re a single parent, you get dropped out of the social circles of couples and families. You’re running at full speed all the time to meet the pace of life with children. It’s exhausting,” John shares. “My mother never went on a vacation because she couldn’t afford to do it.”
John and Linda had already been coming to Sandy Cove for many years — he to the men’s retreats, and then later as a couple to Family Camp. They shared CDs from their favorite speakers with their friends, and were avid supporters of the ministry.
But several years ago, as the lacrosse coach at a regional Christian university, John confronted the sweeping impact of single-parent households in the angry outburst of a player on his team. His dad had left the family when he was young and he hadn’t seen him in years, until a chance encounter at a local video rental store.
“It turned out at least half the guys on the lacrosse team did not have fathers at home,” says John, who easily cites sobering statistics about kids who grow up without a father.
Four years ago, the Staplefords decided they would like to create opportunities for single-parent families to experience Sandy Cove. And with a generous initial gift, the Single Parent Scholarship Fund was born.
“God broke our connection to money a long time ago,” says John, “so we give money to different ministries. I thought about the single moms, and how it would be wonderful if the financial hurdle of coming to Sandy Cove could be reduced.
“Sandy Cove is very focused on grace as opposed to shaping up and doing things right,” says John, about the organization’s appeal. “It’s the grace that touches people’s lives, along with the Holy Spirit. That is what impacts me the most.”
Since 2016, more than 160 scholarships totaling more than $100,000 have been awarded to single-parent families.
“A couple of years ago, we had four or five moms come up to us and they were all so grateful, so touched. In some cases, they were grateful their children could be around other Christians, intact families, and fathers,” says John, who is quick to add that the only perfect father is the Heavenly one.“It’s a ministry to the parent but it’s a vital ministry to the children as well,” says John. “My mother would have loved this.”
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