By Brett Hetherington*
In the midst of a summer like no other we find ourselves in new territory. Normally kids throughout the East Ohio Conference would be spending a full week or more at either Camp Wanake, Camp Asbury, or Camp Aldersgate learning new ways to connect with God, acquiring skills that will help them throughout life, and forging friendships that will last far beyond that week at camp.
This year, out of an abundance of caution for campers and staff during the COVID-19 pandemic, traditional camp programming was canceled. In its place, East Ohio Conference Camps & Retreat Ministries staff created new opportunities for serving families. Each EOC camp site is offering individual families a unique camp experience that observes State of Ohio mandates for keeping campers healthy and safe while providing opportunities to get away from home and enjoy our beautiful sites in a safe environment.
Socially Distanced Household Vacation Destination at Camp Aldersgate
Camp Aldersgate Director Dan Bajc invites you to, “beat your shelter-in-place cabin fever by renting our cabin and entire campground!”
Families can rent the 29-acre site for a week or a half week and have the entire site for some high-quality social distancing. The family opportunity includes lodging and a camp host who will lead up-to-five hours a day of physically distanced activities such as guided kayak trips, time on the waterfront, archery, hikes, and more. A daily devotional is provided for each family to do together.
Each family can work with the camp host to set its schedule of activities for the week and to take advantage of the camp’s many available amenities, such as fishing gear, basketball court, gaga ball court, corn hole, arts and craft supplies, board games, a television and a collection of movies, firewood, and more.
The Rev. Brandon Keck and his family enjoyed their first-ever visit to Camp Aldersgate.
“The camp put out so many things for us, and the staff took such great care of us. It was as if we were actually at church camp, and we did everything you normally would there except we did it as a family. Way better vacation than going somewhere like Myrtle Beach and far safer,” Keck shared.
Aldersgate offers two options for housing – Horstman Lodge (for five-10 people) and the Cottage (for three to six people). Both facilities have full kitchens where families prepare their meals. Full-week and half-week options are available.
Keck plans on taking his family back should the summer cooperate with their schedule.
“This is a great opportunity for families to go and experience church camp together. And it is an opportunity to support the camps as well because our camps are so important to the life of our churches.”
Wanake Family Vacation Camp Adventure
Camp Wanake Director Julie Lautt shares that, “Wanake Family Vacation Camp is a shelter-in-place vacation for families or households of up to 10 people.”
She invites families to shed their everyday setting and explore the outdoors of Camp Wanake for a half-week or a full week this summer. Each family has its own living space, restrooms, and an indoor meeting space that is great if it’s raining outside. Camp Wanake can host seven to eight families each session with most housing in retreat centers. Two families each week may choose cabin living. One family may choose the “rustic” option.
Activities at the camp include canoeing, hiking, cookouts, nature study, non-touch family games, fishing, pond study, crafts, sunrise/sunset opportunities, campfires each evening, and families have the option to purchase horseback riding experiences ala cart. Wanake fosters spiritual formation with daily family devotions and worship, giving each family direction and materials so that members can grow deeper in their relationship with God.
“The evening worship experiences were really meaningful for our family. Being able to worship through scripture and song in the midst of God’s creation was extra special after worshipping online for so many months. The talks we had around the campfire brought us together while keeping us a safe distance from people outside our household,” said Katie Colbow.
Like all families camping together at Wanake, Katie, her husband Brad and their daughter Abby had their own family table in the dining hall, socially distanced from others. The camp staff served the meals and offered direction during cookouts, which are an integral element of camp life at Camp Wanake.
“The staff thought of all the details when it came to health and safety. The kitchen staff went the extra mile to serve us and the extra hand washing stations made it easy to stay clean,” shared Brad Colbow.
Abby added of the staff, “They taught us games we could play while maintaining a safe distance. We had a lot of laughs playing them every evening.”
Home Away from Home: A Family Camp Experience for Summer 2020 at Camp Asbury
Camp Asbury Director the Rev. Bill Graham says, “if you are tired of quarantine, Asbury offers a beautiful nearby setting for an isolation vacation where you can find ‘your home away from home’ at Camp Asbury this summer.”
Families can have fun, stay safe and receive warm hospitality at Camp Asbury, where guests can choose between a two-night, five-meal package or a five-night, 14-meal package. The maximum family size for this opportunity is 10 people. Families can enjoy a mix of self-directed time and staff-assisted activities or they use Camp Asbury as a home base to explore nearby public attractions. Accommodations are in a modern retreat center with each family having its own dedicated meeting space, sleeping space, and restrooms for the duration of their stay at Camp Asbury.
Activities may include hiking, nature interpretation, canoeing, time at the waterfront, outdoor cooking, archery, stargazing, and fishing – and families will be provided with materials for a daily time of worship and reflection. Asbury staff is available to provide program assistance tailored to make each family’s time at Asbury fun and memorable but there is no health professional on the grounds. Families should come prepared to administer their own first-aid and monitor the health of each family member.
Learn more about East Ohio Conference Camps & Retreat Ministries on the East Ohio Conference website.
The Communications team would like to share other stories that highlight ways that ministries of our East Ohio Conference and its nearly 700 congregations are answering the call of Bishop Tracy S. Malone to reach out to their communities in creative ways. Please e-mail your ministry story to EOC Director of Communications Rick Wolcott at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Brett Hetherington is Communications specialist for the East Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church.