It was Labor Day 1937. Five men were looking for a place to establish a Christian Youth Camp. They were attending a bible conference at the Kiwanis Camp beside the neighboring Boy Scout Camp. The men were walking over some territory and stopped under a shade tree to break for lunch. As they were sitting there, one of the men said, “I feel that we should pray right here.” As they prayed, another gentleman said, “I feel that we should inquire about purchasing this land.” The camp they established, formerly known as Camp El Har or “Hill of God,” was founded in 1937 by this exact group of Christian leaders who were praying under the tree on a hill at this location. From there, the legacy of their vision for camp began. This camp is beautifully nestled on 54 acres of wooded hills near Joe Pool Lake in Southwest Dallas. It is like a magical village that has all one needs to be inspired, empowered, and rejuvenated.
Present/Future of Ascend
Today the facility is owned and operated by Ascend. Ascend is a business that sees itself as an extension of Camp El Har rather than an interruption. We are a business with a heart and soul that provides a life-changing experience for our campers. As a facility, we would like to continue to host educational, community, corporate events, and faith groups that embrace the positive youth and community development framework of Ascend. Our camp aims to provide three important aspects to our campers:
Inspiration: Through our wide variety of activities and programs such as personal empowerment, leadership, and personal development skills. We serve to encourage our youth participants to strive for improving and challenging themselves beyond their perceived limitations to make a positive impact for their future.
Recreation: Ascend will continue to offer essential elements that challenge the body and the mind through recreational activities such as All-Terrain Vehicle experiences, Archery/Archery Tag, Basketball, Bubble Soccer, Challenge Course, Disc Golf, Flag Football, Horseback Riding, Miniature Golf, Paintball, Swimming, Team Building, Tetherball, Volleyball, and so much more!
Education: Learning is what prepares people for meaningful citizenship, employment, and active participation in our society. For this reason, Ascend offers a wide range of knowledge building opportunities such as Horsemanship Skills, Live Animal Presentations, Petting Zoo Interactions, Educational Seminars and Workshops.
Who we are is in our name – Ascend. We are focused on the idea and purpose of helping people rise to their full potential while reminding them of the many gifts that we are blessed with. We help drive our groups towards a bright future by helping them understand their sense of purpose and belonging, while creating positive and beneficial experiences. Ascend Camp & Retreat Center provides participants with guidance through positive role models, recreational challenges, and educational experiences with nature and creatures.
Iyad Alnachef, CEO
Since 1999 Iyad has been managing local, regional and national grassroot organizations, mainly within the Muslim American community’s institutions. Between 1999 and 2005 he worked in Franklin, Michigan and Flint Islamic Centers as a Youth Director. While there he earned his Masters in Youth Development from Michigan State University, East Lansing. Then he moved to DC Area to work for the Boy Scouts of America 2005-2006. After that, he was hired as the Director a national youth-led organization (Muslim Youth of North America) that has grown its operation from 2 camps per year in 2007 to 13 camps in 2012 while sustaining a 95%+ satisfaction rate. In 2013 Iyad established the Center for Family & Community Development (CFCD). On September, 2017, Iyad founded Ascend Camp and Retreat Center, a privately owned community and youth development facility, located in the heart of Dallas.
Hana Alkurdi: Office Administrative Coordinator
Hana graduated with a Bachelors of Science degree in Business Administration. Currently, she is studying with the National Academy of Sports Medicine to become a certified personal trainer with a specialization in women’s fitness. Her goal is to help women stay active and healthy by training and guiding them with private sessions. Hana’s hobbies include volunteering, working out, and spending time with friends and family. In 2016, Hana went on a humanitarian trip to Jordan to work with Syrian refugees. Her passion for her country, Syria, inspires her to continuously volunteer her time towards charity work for Syrian orphans, as well as local refugees.
Adrian Hornos, Maintenance Coordinator
Adrian is known to be Ascend’s “go to” man! He is responsible for a variety of tasks related to maintaining and improving our facilities and equipment. Adrian manages any repairs that we may have to ensure that our facility is in great and safe condition, year long. He also maintains our program elements such as the swimming pool, sports fields, paintball field, mini golf field, and much more. Adrian, is a former mechanic and he relates his past job to his current job by working hard, staying dedicated, and giving job tasks 100% of his time and attention.
Eric Brittingham, Life Science Coordinator
Over the last 26 years, Eric “Mr. B” Brittingham has been a classroom teacher with Mansfield ISD, served as the River Legacy Living Science Center Liaison with the Arlington ISD, was a Safari Guide with Animal Edutainment’s Critterman., served as educator and supervisor at the Dallas Zoo’s Lacerte Family Children’s Zoo, was an outdoor education volunteer for Audubon programming at Cedar Ridge Preserve, and participated as a Volunteer Ambassador at the Fort Worth Zoo. He has a bachelor’s degree in Life and Earth Science from Stephen F. Austin State University and is recognized as an official Lumberjack. Eric and business partner K.C. Rudy founded Wildlife On The Move in 2005 to help “Bring Science to Life” through LIVE Animal Outreach Programming. In his spare time, he enjoys date nights with his wife, sermons and worship at IBC, listening to his favorite band – RUSH, attending and watching sporting events, and traveling to Caribbean Islands.