For the first time since it began more than a decade ago, Ground Zero has had to cancel its Dragon Boat Festival. But COVID-19 can’t cancel the fun or the fundraising, both of which are up and running.

Ground Zero is, its website says, “A place where every teenager can go, belong and grow.”

Through life-changing experiences and nurturing relationships, the faith-based ministry makes a positive impact in the lives of today’s teenagers, cultivating their faith and transforming their futures.

Originally scheduled for April and then postponed tentatively until August, the next festival and race are now scheduled for April 2021.

In the meantime, there are ways people can participate in the ministry’s work, and have a good time doing so.

Because the nonprofit relies so heavily on funds to meet its needs, Ground Zero will share, on Facebook and through video chats and email, ways team members can raise money, some of which will go to support the brand-new Your Year Scholarship!

That scholarship will be given to a senior to be used towards education or structured programs that are beneficial to the student’s faith and future, said Kaydee Culclasure, advancement director at the ministry.

Your Year is a new program encouraging and celebrating juniors and seniors as they make the transition from high school to college. They develop leadership skills and participate with community churches and ministries.

Team members who reach this year’s fundraising goal of $100 per person or $2,100 for the team will receive a very special COVID-19 dragon boat T-shirt.

That fundraising goal has been lowered because of a recent emergency appeal, but more money is needed.

The top fundraising team will be the first team allowed to sign up for next year, and festival fans know that’s very special.

“The team captain will get to choose the team’s shirt color, the tent location, practice times, and things like that,” Culclasure said.

When the Dragon Boat Festival started, there were about 20 teams, and that number has almost tripled over the years, said its founder, Scott Payseur.

On Aug. 22, from noon – 2 p.m., a live Ground Zero TV broadcast on The CW will celebrate all that was accomplished through the fundraising, and introduce viewers to the ministry.

“The two-hour live special will highlight our building and introduce some of our teens,” Culclasure said, adding that it will also be a time to give some shout outs to sponsors and interview some of the people involved in the Dragon Boat Festival.

A couple of Ground Zero’s most popular ministries are GZi and iGrow, both of which benefit from the funds raised.

GZi is a weekly interactive experience where teens build relationships while they hang out and play games with their friends, enjoy a Top Nosh free dinner, have coffee at the Ground Zero Coffee Shop, and do lots more.

At GZi, they also participate in group discussions about issues teens face today, and hear a Scripture-based inspirational message.

iGrow is a weekly experience that involves participants signing a commitment to each other, to their own growth and to the group.

Ground Zero was founded in Tennessee in 1998 by Payseur and his wife Kimberly. It launched in Myrtle Beach in 2006, establishing monthly impact worship events averaging more than 800 people attending.

In 2010, Ground Zero partnered with the Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce and Premier Festivals to launch Beach Blast, the Grand Strand’s only Christian music festival.

The next year, the ministry leased the former Rivoli Theater from the City of Myrtle Beach for $1 a year for the next 20 years, and launched the Summer Concerts Series on the downtown boardwalk on Sunday nights.

In 2012, Ground Zero started renovations on the venue, with the help of volunteers and mission teams from all over the country.

“Although the festival has been cancelled, the giving hasn’t been,” Culclasure said, adding, “and neither has the need because these teens and families still need positivity and hope, especially in the face of this pandemic.

“We want to show them that we’re still here, and our volunteers have stayed in contact [with the teens and their families] through phone calls.”

For more information about Ground Zero, visit www.mygroundzero.com or see its Facebook page.

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I'm the assistant editor of the Carolina Forest Chronicle. I write news and business features. Have a great story idea? Please call me at 843-602-9306.

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