- Cullman, Alabama

July 7, 2013

Children’s ministry partners with Big Oak Ranch for event at Smith Lake

By Lauren Estes
The Cullman Times

— After battling with a decision six years ago to begin the Wake the World ministry for kids, founder Greg Hodgin said he gets more out of it than he could ever put in.

Wake the World is a program involving local group homes, Wounded Warrior projects and non-profit groups, hosting an all-day event near Crane Hill recently for 70 kids from Big Oak Ranch facilities. Hodgin started the event in North Carolina after feeling the call to initiate fun in troubled kids’ lives with something he knew all about — wakeboarding.

“A family from our church brought some kids from a local group home that were the same age as my oldest daughter,” he said. “I mentioned to my wife that I’d like to take a few of them to the lake to have some fun with something that my kids may take for granted. She told me, ‘If you take one, you need to take all of them.’”

That was only the beginning for Hodgin. He said he battled with God about being called to start a ministry with the children’s home because he didn’t feel worthy or deserving. He said after God worked on him with the ministry for a year, he was involved in a bad car accident that allowed him to see everything from a new perspective. He also gained a big opportunity a short time later.

“The day after the accident, when I saw how damaged the truck was, it hit me,” Hodgin said. “I asked myself, ‘What am I doing with my life that means anything to anybody?’”

The idea of taking the kids to the lake came back, but he still had questions.

“Why would God want me to take these kids to the lake?” Hodgon said. “Who am I to do this?”

After attending wakeboard competitions in the past, he earned an invitation to the U.S. Masters Championships in Louisiana where he had placed as high as fourth at one time.

“This time, I won it,” Hodgin said. “I was the 2007 U.S. Masters Wakeboard Champion, which means nothing to me now, but at the time it was just what I needed to push me to do something. So I immediately started calling friends on the way home about the ministry and they all agreed they would help with it.”

In 2008, Hodgin had the first Wake the World involving two group homes in North Carolina, including seven other families volunteering their time and their boats to teach the kids to wakeboard.

“Every year it’s gotten a little bit bigger, with more kids finding out about it,” Hodgin said. “This year we have 25 events in 17 states and Canada using about 300 boats.”

Hodgin said the ministry included an adaptive event for handicapped participants and Wounded Warriors, and held their first event last year and one again this year to raise money for the equipment they need for the participants.

Big Oak Ranch’s Jonathan Smidt said all the food they serve is donated. People who work the event are unpaid volunteers.

“We serve them lunch and dinner and have music at night,” Smidt said. “Basically it gives them the opportunity to try to wakeboard or go out on the lake, and we really get out of it as much as they do. Any money that we get, it goes back to the kids.”

He said they have received multiple donations of food and water to cover the Smith Lake event, including 900 bottles of water from Buffalo Rock.

“Two weeks ago, a 10-year-old girl came to one of our events and had recently been taken from her family,” Hodgin said. “I’m not sure of the situation, but we were talking with her and she said she didn’t know why she was separated from her mom and dad because she wanted to be home with them. However, she added, ‘Not today, today is the best day ever.’”

For more information about upcoming events, to host an event, or to donate, visit or

Lauren Estes can be reached at or 256-734-2131, ext. 137.