As summertime approaches, Maria Shupe and her staff at Highlands Presbyterian Camps and Retreat Center begin their preparations for the throngs of children set to arrive at their picturesque property in Allenspark.
But, like several other faith-based camps in our region, Highlands is preparing for adult campers, too. The sleepaway camp, founded in 1946, offers a traditional camp experience for children as well as family camp for, you guessed it, the whole family, and separate programs for mother-daughter, father-son and grandparent-grandchild pairs.
“Our biggest goal is to equip parents to teach faith to their kids,” says Shupe, executive director at Highlands. “Most of them don’t know how to do it.”
Toward that end, weekend-long family camps offer opportunities for the camp staff to model things like saying grace before meals and talking about Bible stories so that when everyone leaves, they can do those things on their own, at home.
“We can have 30, 40 people during family weekend, from all kinds of families,” Shupe says. “We have single parents, traditional families, families from group homes.”
They offer opportunities for kids to come with a grandparent or other family member, too, because, Shupe says, “those are the adults best equipped to nurture faith in those kids.”
Glacier View Ranch Camp in Ward will be offering its first family camp this summer. The camp day includes morning and evening worships as well as other programming based in the Seventh-day Adventist faith.
“We hope they leave with that extra emphasis on family,” says Jessica Beans, assistant director at Glacier View Ranch. “You’re there for the week; you’re not working. Cell phones don’t even work out where we are, so you’re kind of taking a week away from life just to be with family. To take that experience back into our crazy, busy world is very necessary.”
Beans adds that not all families — or all family members — who come to camp are very religious. Sometimes one person encourages the whole family to come, and all activities, including worship, are optional.
“It doesn’t matter if you come in with heavy religious ties,” she says. “A lot of families find that it makes their ties a little deeper.”
Camp Timberline in Estes Park also offers a family camp. Like Highlands, it’s a weekend-long affair. The Christian-based sports and adventure camp has activities like zip lines, disc golf and ropes courses.
“When you leave your family will drive away with life-long memories having spent the whole weekend playing, worshipping, and just hanging out,” reads Timberline’s website. “When is the last time you have done that?!” Summer is a time for fun at all camps, but for some, it’s also a time to get closer to family and God.
“All camps are so good for kids. They teach independence, new skills. When you put faith on top of that, it just adds to that experience,” Shupe says. “We’ve always been geared toward children and youth, but you can’t reach children and youth without their families.”