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Elgin Lights to hold Christmas in July
Will raise money to build new Camp Cole
Camp Cole
Camp Cole, a new camp for kids battling cancer being built in Columbia, is named for Cole Sawyer, who passed away in 2004. For 22 years, Paul Towns and his wife, Sarah, have used Elgin Lights to raise money to send children to camp in Greenville. Towns will open Elgin Lights for a special Christmas in July weekend, July 26-28, to raise money for the new camp.

For 22 years each December, Paul Towns and his wife, Sarah, have hosted Elgin Lights at their home in order to raise funds for Camp Kemo. This year, Towns said he wants to do something special by hosting a “Christmas in July” event from 6 to 9 p.m. July 26-28.

“We have sent hundreds of children to camp in Cole Sawyer’s name,” Towns said in a recent email. “His name has been in the paper … for 15 years since 2004 when he passed and I found I had cancer. With you keeping his name alive, the circle is almost full. We have a little father to get it to connect.”

Towns said he is opening Elgin Lights for the special weekend to raise funds to build Camp Cole.

“Not only will send children to camp, but to Cole’s Camp. This camp is needed badly as the camp they use now is all the way in Greenville, and it does not have the facilities it needs to handle the types of children that we send,” Towns said.

He said Cole’s mother, Kelsey Sawyer, quit her job in order to build the camp along with her father, Scott.

“She really surprised me … one of the buildings will be dedicated in my name,” Towns said. “I hope I live long enough to see the first group of campers at Camp Cole.”

The entry fee to Elgin Lights’ Christmas in July is $10 per car or $20 for activities van or bus. Live music will be performed by Frayned Knot -- bring a chair to enjoy the music, Town said. There will also be food and drink (no coolers, please), and seven museums will be open along with a gift shop showing off toys, trains, tractors, blacksmithing, military memorabilia, dolls, dollhouses, antiques, farm equipment and vintage motorcycles.

There will also be games to play, including corn hole, 8-foot by 8-foot checkers, ring toss, and bean bags. Also, there will be props for special photos and even a Summer Santa.

For more information, call the Towns at (803) 408-0131, or email

(Editor's Note: After the C-I went to press Monday evening, Towns sent some additional background for this article. He revealed that Cole's mother, Stacey Sawyer, passed away in 2016 and that Cole's sister, Kelsey, is now heading the project to build Cole's Camp. Towns also said the following: "I am still fighting the cancer. (It) has been growing, but I am not going to quit helping to raise funds that help children." He said the 150-acre camp will help all disabled people -- children and adults -- and will be located on U.S. 378 about 1 mile west of McEntire Joint National Guard Base.)