The Rye Foundation: Making a Difference in the Lives of Children

In 2001, a group of philanthropists came together for a common purpose—to establish a fund that would be directed at services to benefit children throughout North Carolina. The Rye Foundation is named for the three primary focuses of the organization: religion, youth, and education. For 17 years, their generous donations have supported camps, music programs, sports teams, and children in unique circumstances, such as those who have lost military parents; those who have a parent in prison; or those who have special needs.

In 2018, the Rye Foundation will celebrate the milestone achievement of making over $1 million in cumulative gifts to children’s projects.

An ongoing priority for the Board of Directors is to support Christian youth camps across the state. Rye Foundation president, Warren Steen, shared, “We have provided funding for camps from Clemmons to Caswell Beach, and from Hendersonville to Hertford.”

“Our camp donations are designed to benefit the children served by the camp,” Warren explained. “Our Board of Directors is diligent about awarding funds to camps that will yield tremendous, long-term benefits for the children served. It’s like the saying goes, ‘We’re building wells, knowing we may never drink from it.’”

The gifts have ranged from construction and playground projects to camp scholarships to curriculum materials, Bibles, and more.

“A recent project we supported,” Warren elaborated, “was for Camp Vandemere in Pamlico County. In 2011, they suffered severe damage from Hurricane Irene, and the camp was closed for several years as a result. With donations, including a $25,000 gift from the Rye Foundation, the camp reopened and for the last two years, over 1700 boys and girls enjoyed the benefits of summer camp.”

Delegates from the Rye Foundation are often invited to see the impact of their donations. Seeing refurbished and remodeled camps being enjoyed by smiling children is a reward beyond measure. Warren reflected, “Our tour of Camp Vandermere was incredible. The flooding from Hurricane Irene had been severe, and to see the camp reopened, and providing services to children—including specialty weeks focused on service to those who are deaf or hearing-impaired, as well as children who are developmentally disabled—it’s a tremendous joy. We love to serve all children, but for those who have specialized needs, we know the Rye Foundation is helping to make a difference.”

“Last summer, I received a special invitation to tour Military Camp Week at Camp Hanes,” said Warren. “Every year, Camp Hanes dedicates a week exclusively to serve children who have a parent who was wounded or killed in service. Sponsored by the Golden Corral, this is called Camp Corral Week. Last year, 265 children participated in Camp Corral Week, but we learned that there were 100 more children on a waiting list. The Rye Foundation has been able to establish a grant for scholarship support to make sure more children of military families can enjoy the benefits of Camp Corral!”

Similarly, Camp Caraway and Camp Mundo Vista have both set aside designated weeks for children who have a parent or step-parent in prison. Warren admitted that, “These are the greatest challenges, and with those come the greatest opportunities. The ratio of camp counselor to child is modeled based on the needs of the children and enables the staff to give boys and girls the personalized, focused attention they need. In many cases, this is the first taste of authority, cooperation, and order these children experience. The Rye Foundation is proud to help support these kinds of initiatives.”

The work being supported by the Rye Foundation has lasting, even eternal significance. Warren observed that a recent study showed that “camp experiences can help foster an understanding [of] and heartfelt desire to enter ministry work.” One camp interviewed over 300 young adults who had served as counselor during their college years and one-third of them decided to enter the ministry, meaning that Christian summer camps are an ideal training ground for future ministers, missionaries, and faith-based workers.

In 2016, the Rye Foundation chose to honor one of their greatest, and most humble, donors. The late Ray Bryan had a heart for children, and after his death, the Ray Bryan Award was established to give $25,000 each year to a children’s charity that “makes a strong and life-changing impact on children and youth.” The first two recipients are stellar examples—Young Life on the Crystal Coast in Morehead City; and The Refuge Camp Ministry in Ayden.

Camp is an opportunity not only to build memories and have fun, but a way to experience life-changing moments that can help shape and mold our youth. The work of the Rye Foundation is helping Christian camps across North Carolina see that vision become a reality.

To learn more about the Rye Foundation, or donate, visit them online at or call 336.760.2260. While investing in camps is a primary focus, the Rye Foundation also supports the American Hero Project in Winston-Salem; the Matthew 25 Center for inmates’ families in Tabor City; and Prison Fellowship in Elizabeth City.


Some of the recent beneficiaries of the Rye Foundation include:

  • Camp Caraway in Randolph County received a $65,500 donation.
  • Camp Caswell at Oak Island received a donation of $47,250.
  • Kamp Kiwanis in Lexington received $47,000.
  • Victory Junction Camp in Randleman received $45,000.

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