Building supplies like lots of wood and bags of concrete mix, plus help from dozens of volunteers are helping dreams come true for 23-year-old Army veteran CJ Stewart.
"Down Range is going to be the place where young people get to come in the Jackson metro area and experience things and learn things about themselves they wouldn't normally get to through sports and the outdoors," Stewart said.
Camp "Down Range," an outdoor camp, will eventually occupy 30 acres of land in and around the Parkway Pentecostal Church in Madison.
On Wednesday, a groundbreaking ceremony was held and Madison Mayor Mary Hawkins Butler presented Stewart with a $13,000 check donated from the Altria Group. The money will help complete the outdoor paintball obstacle course which is phase one of the camp.
"I think that this is the very beginning of something wonderful for the community," Hawkins-Butler said.
In 2010, Stewart nearly lost his arm after a rocket propelled grenade attack in Afghanistan.
"You know it was a bad day, but it turned out to be the best day," Stewart said.
The young veteran realized that part of his purpose is to make a difference in the lives of children. He hopes activities at Camp Down Range can do that by teaching youth to defeat any obstacle they face.
"Challenge kids to work together to learn things, to overcome small things as simple as an obstacle and that applies to everyday life," Stewart said.
"It's overwhelming to know that your sons been through something as traumatic as this and all he talks about is how he can use it to help other people, it's pretty rewarding," said CJ's dad, Chuck Stewart.
The paintball obstacle course should be complete by Oct. 20 and then open to the public a couple of months after that date. Construction plans for Camp "Down Range" also include a ropes repel line, a military-type obstacle course and ball fields. The CJ Stewart Foundation has purchased the 30 acres where the Parkway Pentecostal Church sits, and the camp will fully occupy the church by next year.
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