Coquihalla Grade 4 student John Fay takes careful aim at the Camp Squeah archery range

Kids can explore and grow at summer camps

From archery and wall climbing to swimming and hiking, activities help expand experiences

Most kids don’t have a good wall to climb in their homes, nor a safe place to shoot a bow and arrow.

However, Hope has three outstanding camps right in its backyard which are open and waiting for kids to sign up for their summer programs that include archery, wall climbing, swimming, hiking and more.

There’s Camp Hope, on Highway #7, Camp Squeah in Dogwood Valley and Camp Kawkawa, at Kawkawa Lake.

Camp Squeah’s executive director Rob Tiessen emphasizes the safe refuge part of the camp’s mission statement.

“Our focus has always been on safety,” said Tiessen on Monday.

“Squeah is a safe place, where kids can be stretched to come out of their comfort zones. We want them to be able to walk away, more confident in their knowledge of who they are and what abilities they have.”

Squeah is owned and operated by the Mennonite Church of B.C. and was started in 1962.

“It’s our 50th anniversary, so we’re calling it our Golden Summer,” said Tiessen, who started working at the camp in 1995 and has been the executive director since 2006.

Campers range in age from six to 16, with two-night camps offered for the youngest campers and  up to month-long camps for teens who are interested in building their leadership skills.

At the height of the summer season, Squeah can hold 102 campers and 55 to 65 summer staff, said Tiessen.

“I’ve recently become aware of the term ‘helicopter parent,” said Tiessen. “More and more, parents are concerned about letting their kids go. There are so many fears out there — but it’s our aim to make our camp a safe place, for parents to take that step.”

For those who need even more assurance, Tiessen said they can arrange for a visit to the camp, where staff can show them around. There’s also a family camp offered, from July 16 to 20, where the whole family can come for a shared adventure.

All three camps are Christian faith-based, though the executives directors of Squeah and Kawkawa say they realize their clientele has been changing over the years. (Camp Hope’s director was unable to respond by press time.)

“Being a Christian camp, we encourage exploration of one’s faith — and to consider what our role is in regard to nature,” said Tiessen. “But we respect where people are coming from. We’re trending close to 50-50 for people with no church or faith background. We’ve also had Muslims that had to honour Ramadan while they were here, so we made time for that.”

Wayne Stewart, of Camp Kawkawa concurred. “We probably have about 50 per cent of our campers who are not from a church background.

“We still teach solid moral principles — and anything religious that we present is done in the light of day. It’s important for people to know that. We’re not a cult.”

At one point, in 2005, there wasn’t a camp at all. Geotechnical concerns forced the camp to close in 2005, thirty-one years after it first opened.

It remained closed for three years.

Stewart said a generous donation by renowned geotechnician Frank Bowman gave the camp the green light to reopen in 2008.

“Frank came out here on his own and walked the site and did a fly-over and he gave us a full geotechnical study that allowed us to reopen,” said Stewart, who has lived at the camp with his family since 2009.

“It not only helped the camp — but also the District of Hope, as the homeowners on Johnson Road couldn’t get insurance or sell their homes without the study.

“Rita Lihaven was the driving force in getting the camp going again,” said Stewart, “but she succumbed to cancer just two weeks before it reopened.”

Now, the camp can handle up to 80 campers, ranging from seven to 18 years old, with 40 staff to serve them.

“We also have a work program, for age 13 and up, where kids can come and work in the kitchen or do maintenance,” said Stewart.

“It’s helps them build a work ethic. They pay $75 to come and work  for the week. The idea is to feed them into our staff for future years,” said Stewart. “It’s not all work … they get to take part in the fun, too.”

With the lake right there, water and boating activities abound — but Stewart is proud of some new land-based activities they have developed this year.

“Kids these days are good at texting but they’re not so good at face-to-face interaction,” said Stewart.

“They’re also not so good at tactile activities, so we’ve just finished building an outdoor pizza oven, where kids can build their own pizzas, slip them in and sit around the oven and talk while they bake.”

On the nature front, there’s a 500 year old Douglas fir that towers near the boat dock and a 900 year old monster at the back of the property, said Stewart

“We’re building a wheelchair-accessible trail to it. We’ll put deck chairs around the base of the tree, so people can lean back and look up at all the life that goes on in that old tree,” said Stewart.

All three facilities have websites outlining dates, activities and fees, so check them out — and get camping.

Just Posted

River Monsters attract nearly 300 swimmers to their two-day meet

This was the third year for the now-annual event

PHOTOS: Sasquatch Days about ‘being proud of being Sts’ailes’

The joint event between Harrison and Sts’ailes returned to the village for its eighth year

‘This was my baby’: Music teacher to retire after 29 years at Kent Elementary

Brenda Di Rezze will be saying goodbye to her music room at the end of this school year

New Farmer’s Market coming to downtown Hope

Markets will be hosted every Friday on 3rd Avenue

SD78 growth plan to focus on inclusive learning, reading

Data collection and collaboration will help schools meet goals, superintendent says

VIDEO: First Nations, developer call for return and protection of sacred B.C. burial site

Dozens of First Nations leaders gather on grassy plateau to call on action by provincial government

You might not know these B.C. records are public

Hired a lawyer to file a civil claim? Those are published online

Teen stabbed after end-of-night limo dispute in downtown Vancouver

A young man, 19, is in serious condition following a dispute between two groups

B.C. bus driver loses case to get job back after texting while driving full bus

An arbitator ruled that Tim Wesman’s phone usage was a “a reckless disregard for public safety”

Revamped B.C. Lions set to battle veteran Winnipeg Blue Bombers

The Lions’ first test of the season will be a big one

No business case for Trans Mountain expansion, says former environment minister

Cabinet is expected to announce its decision on the expansion of the Alberta-to-B.C. pipeline by Tuesday

LETTER: British Columbia’s forest industry crisis being made worse

Andrew Wilkinson warns of regulatory overload by John Horgan’s NDP

Convicted B.C. child abductor Randall Hopley back in custody 6 months after release

Correctional Services Canada could not provide further details due to privacy concerns

Alleged driver of semi-truck in fatal Burnaby hit-and-run identified

No charges have been laid and police say the driver is cooperating with the investigation

Most Read