Camp Quest is beyond thrilled to be returning to a full slate in 2022! After two years of reduced capacity due to the pandemic, the network is returning to full strength this summer and even adding new locations.
If you’re not familiar with Camp Quest, let me fill you in. Founded in 1996 as a single camp in Northern Kentucky, Camp Quest is a summer youth camp aimed at children from non-religious families. Over the years, the network expanded across the country. In 2019, the last year of full operations, the network ran fourteen overnight camps from California to Virginia, serving more than a thousand children.
Camp Quest programming varies by location but includes core programs fostering critical thinking and humanist ethics. A favorite activity is Socrates Cafe, where campers gather to discuss big questions—usually chosen by the children themselves—in a respectful but rigorous way. Creative and nature-based activities are always included as well.
The majority of the camps are independent affiliates run by volunteers, including boards and staff. However, in 2022, three new locations will be added, administered by the Camp Quest National Office. These new camps will have paid staff instead of volunteers. One reason for the change is a commitment to equity. While volunteering is a wonderful option for those who can afford it, many people would love to spend a week at camp but cannot afford to take time off of work. By offering the option of paid employment, Camp Quest hopes to bring our programs to a larger segment of the community, both as staff and campers.
Some changes have also come to the Camp Quest National Support Office in the past few years. We started pursuing accreditation from the American Camp Association (ACA) with a goal for all of our camps to be accredited. So far, five have finished the rigorous process of meeting more than 250 safety and risk management standards. Additionally, we have updated our licensing agreement to reflect ACA guidelines, even for those locations that have yet to complete the accreditation process.
In the past two years, we invested in our network in several ways. First, we hired a Director of Camp Operations, Mary Sullivan, who has 20 years of experience in youth camps and ACA standards. She helps our affiliate camps maintain best practices for safety. Secondly, we instituted a centralized registration system for campers and volunteers, which improves the efficiency of the registration process, as well as maintains health and safety records in an easily-accessible way. Thirdly, we rebranded and updated our promotional materials to make the camps’ values more accessible to those outside the traditional secular movement. As the United States becomes more and more secular, it’s important to reach out to all the ”nones” and let them know that a welcoming, values-based community is there for them.
This summer, we will launch three entirely new locations with extensive financial support available, so we urge everyone to apply.
One is a new residential camp about 20 miles east of Roanoke, VA, Camp Quest Blue Ridge. It’s in a newly renovated facility with canoeing, private hiking trails, two ropes courses, a zipline, a pool, and a climbing wall. In western Massachusetts, we’re launching Camp Quest Pioneer Valley, a three-week day camp on the grounds of a historic boarding school in Greenfield, MA. We hope to add a residential camp in the same location in 2023.
Also in Virginia, we will introduce our first collaborative camp. Camp Quest at the Farm is a week-long day camp in cooperation with Project Grows, an educational farm outside Staunton, VA. Children will participate in their garden-based activities in the morning, while Camp Quest will provide afternoon programming. We are hopeful that this collaborative model will pave the way for more expansion—and more variety—in the years to come.
As the non-religious population continues to grow, we are excited to have the opportunity to help create a positive and healthy community for them. Camp Quest imagines a future where this sort of supportive community organization is available at all stages of life, and we look forward to partnering with organizations such as the American Humanist Association to make that come true.
To learn more about Camp Quest and all our locations, please visit campquest.org.