Pastors begin effort for city kids to see a world away: the ocean is your source for free news and information in the Wilmington area.

Mike and Cala Dickey, two new pastors to the Wilmington area, moved to the city in October with their kids Michael and Lillie to build a new church. Photo by Christina Haley.
Mike and Cala Dickey are two pastors new to the Wilmington area who organized a Beach Day for kids who have never seen the ocean. The couple moved to the city in October with their kids Michael and Lillie to build a new church. Photo by Christina Haley.

Guided by their faith and love for the Port City, two pastors new to the Wilmington area have organized an effort to take kids who have never seen the ocean to Kure Beach this summer. The group is seeking volunteers, donations and help finding children who would benefit most from their mission.

The very first CityLife Beach Day is happening at 10 a.m this Saturday, June 18, in Kure Beach, according to husband and wife pastors Mike and Cala Dickey. The idea for the the faith-based project came after the couple moved to the Wilmington area from Dayton, Ohio, and were shocked to learn some children in the city have never been to the beach.

Mike Dickey said the fledgling congregation of 15 was looking for a “big project” to start in Wilmington, as they focus on building membership in what they’ve named CityLife Church. While discussing projects, Mike Dickey said he and his wife learned from a team member that many children in the Wilmington area have lived their whole lives without ever putting their feet in the sand or the ocean, even though it’s just a short drive away.

“It’s mind-blowing to think about,” Mike Dickey said, adding the CityLife team felt that was a need in the community they wanted to meet.

Mike Dickey said when he and his wife, who served their Dayton church as youth pastors, first moved to the Wilmington area and started doing research about the community, they took notice of some of the issues taking place in the city. While the area is surrounded by many beautiful things, such as the beach, river, parks and nice communities, he said they also found “chaos” in the city.

“There’s gang violence. There’s drugs. There are kids out there that are seeing these things,” Mike Dickey said. “If we can impact these kids, not only with God but seeing a different life, that can break the curse of them following that path. I think these beach days are a start to that. They’ll get to see a different perspective of life.”

The pastors went to the principal at Snipes Academy of Art and Design, who let them distribute forms for the beach day to students, Cala Dickey said. She has been volunteering at the school as a vocal instructor, and heard from a teacher that a lot of students there have never been to the beach.

“That just broke our hearts. We’ve made it a point to go to the beach every week with our kids and they love it. And some of these kids have lived here their whole lives and they’ve never been to the beach…we take it for granted,” Cala Dickey said.

Both Mike and Cala Dickey agreed, it was a good place to find their first group of kids for the faith-based project. The pastors not only invited students to beach day, but also opened up registration to their siblings and have gathered 21 kids for their very first trip.

But the event is not limited to those children at the school. Anyone who would like their child to participate can join CityLife Beach Days, Mike Dickey said. But as the project grows and more kids join, the more volunteers will be needed for the project. Mike Dickey said 10 people have volunteered for the first beach day this Saturday.

“Obviously, the more volunteers we can get, the more kids we can take,” Mike Dickey said, adding that he hopes the program will continue to grow this summer.

Kure Beach's Ocean Front Park will be the site of the New Hanover County Library's first annual music fest for kids this Saturday. Photo courtesy the Town of Kure Beach.
Kure Beach’s Ocean Front Park. Photo courtesy the Town of Kure Beach.

The trip comes at no cost to participants. The CityLife team is providing everything for the children, including sunscreen, towels, lunch, water and toys. The only thing the children need to bring is a change of clothes, Cala Dickey said. Sweetwater Surf Shop, located on Wrightsville Beach, has donated two boogie-boards for the event. The faith team is also seeking donations of essential beach items for future beach days.

On top of providing items the kids need for the event, the leadership and their team are providing transportation. Cala Dickey said transportation is a big reason why some of the children have yet to see the ocean. The kids may be growing up in a house where there is no car, or a day at the beach can be expensive and out of their family’s price range.

“We wanted it to be no cost and no hassle for the families,” Cala Dickey said.

Safety is also an important factor. Mike Dickey said the group will be marking off an area of beach with cones right near a life guard stand. CityLife has also managed to get another lifeguard out on the beach for the event.

“One of our team members has some contacts with the Kure Beach lifeguards. So they’re going to send some extra eyes to keep an eye on the kids. We figured if we were right in front of a lifeguard stand that would be the best place for us,” Mike Dickey said.

From about 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. the children will be on the beach, followed by lunch, time on the nearby playground and a short Bible study. Mike Dickey said they plan to have the kids back home by 2:30 p.m. Saturday. Dates for the next CityLife Beach Day have not been announced. Children are encouraged to participate in more than one beach day.

“The goal is to connect with people in the community, families and kids, and take as many kids to the beach as we possibly can. And really just to share the love of Jesus with them,” Mike Dickey said. “We don’t want to be effective once. We want to be continually effective, because I believe that is what’s going to show kids a different way of life. Where they see that people are actually willing to take time out of their day not only once, but multiple times to see that they’ll go out of their way for you.”

CityLife Church is a non-denominational church with a congregation of about 15 team members. But Mike and Cala Dickey, who have been married 10 years, hope to expand that congregation through their work in the Wilmington community. Their growth and newly founded mission to take kids to the beach comes even before hosting their first full faith service or finding a brick and mortar place to plant their church. Coming to the community on a “leap of faith” and with a newfound “passion” for Wilmington, Mike Dickey said their mission is to build their church somewhere downtown.

For more information about CityLife Beach Days and to register a child or become a volunteer visit the CityLife Church website. All volunteers are required to submit to a background check.