Benton earns Top Forty Under 40 honor

Published 5:12 pm Tuesday, December 6, 2022

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Thirty-three-year-old Eric Benton, who was born and raised in Southampton County and Franklin, was recently honored by Inside Business for being one of the top young professionals in the Hampton Roads area who is successful in his career and involved in his community.

The publication named him one of its Top Forty Under 40.

Benton was nominated by the Franklin-Southampton Area Chamber of Commerce, which noted that he was selected as one of the 40 honorees from a field of more than 150 nominees.

“Eric’s passion for our area’s youth is admirable,” Chamber Executive Director Teresa B. Beale said. “Along with being a P.E. teacher for Southampton County Public Schools, he also serves as an assistant football coach and is (an NCAA) basketball referee. Eric possesses a strong work ethic and is constantly giving back to our community. 

“Eric founded Camp25 to provide engaging camps of various types to keep kids safe and productive during school and summer breaks,” Beale added. “His vision and leadership is paving the way for a new generation to be successful and contributing citizens to our region.”

Benton said the Top Forty Under 40 honor meant a lot to him.

“I was very humbled by being chosen for it,” he said. “I’m just very proud of the work that we have done at Camp25 with our youth, and one of the things that I’m most proud of is us never turning away a child due to financial reasons. So it meant a lot to see all of that come to fruition and to be recognized for it.”

Benton founded Camp25 in November 2017, and the organization offers six programs for youth ages 4-17.

Three of the programs are sports leagues offered in partnership with the Franklin Department of Parks and Recreation. The sports include volleyball, basketball and soccer.
“And then we offer three types of camps; those camps are one-day camps, spring break camp and summer camps,” he said.

The idea for creating Camp25 stemmed from Benton’s upbringing.

“When I was growing up, my parents always kept me into different types of activities and camps, and I noticed in our area that there weren’t as many opportunities for our kids that were sort of outside the box,” he said. At Camp 25, “we like doing a lot of things outside the box, like we’ve done baking camps, or gymnastics, or boxing, a veterinarian camp. So we just wanted to expose our youth to things that were outside the box.”

Camp25 has developed significantly since its inception.

“I would say it’s been growing at a pretty rapid rate,” Benton said. “I know since we started five years ago, we’ve serviced close to 1,500 different kids that have come to at least one program from Franklin, Southampton, Isle of Wight or Suffolk.”

Benton balances his Camp25 duties with his job as a physical education instructor at Meherrin Elementary School and Capron Elementary School; his duties as an assistant on Head Coach Travis Parker’s coaching staff for Southampton High School’s varsity football team; and his obligations as an NCAA women’s basketball official.

Identifying what helped him reach the point in life where he is able to give back to his community and receive accolades like the Top Forty Under 40 honor, Benton said, “Of course, first, I would say God. Then second, I would say family. And third, I would say the whole Camp25 team, Franklin Parks and Recreation and then, of course, all of the kids that we service.”