By Alison Burdett
On Saturday, August 5, the 30-year ministry of Andy Thornton was celebrated at West River Center. Friends and family of Thornton flooded the Camping and Retreat Center, along with current and former staff members who worked with him, to show their support and appreciation.
Guests enjoyed a display of photos, making their own “happy trails” mix, writing and/or videoing well wishes to Thornton, and outdoor activities. Thornton’s catch phrase was evident in every aspect of the day: “It just doesn’t get any better than this.”
A Celebration Program was held featuring guest speakers from Thornton’s past and present. The Rev. Ed DeLong began the program with words of welcome followed by a prayer offered by Christie Latona.
The guest speakers shared stories from the 80s, 90s, 2000s and 2010s. Boy Scout Troop 853 recognized the work of Eagle Scout Andy Thornton and presented him with memorabilia and an American Flag. Other gifts offered included a Superman coffee mug from Ray Jenkins, a quilt featuring the nautical flag alphabet from the Baltimore Heritage Quilters, and a painting, commissioned by Thornton’s kids, of West River Camp.
One special gift, presented by Chris Warrington, was a chair Thornton used while serving at Red Bird Mission more than 30 years ago that followed him to West River. Now it gets to follow him into retirement.
Many in attendance stood in acknowledgement of the effect Thornton had on their lives, whether that be meeting their current spouse while working with him through the camps, growing in their faith to become pastors or teachers, or fulfilling their ministry talents in the secular world. As most in the room were standing, Andy was told to look around: “This is your legacy.”
Thornton took to the podium to share a word of response after the presentations and in true Andy Thornton style, spent the entire time tearfully thanking others.