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Camp Quest: Summer Camp, But Without All the God

This article originally appeared as part of SSA eNews No. 11 - The SSA Around the World. Camp Quest on the river

Katie Hladky is a graduate student in religious studies at University of Miami. She is also on the board of directors of Camp Quest, Inc.

I remember distinctly my years as a Girl Scout growing up in a small farming town in Northeast Ohio. In my small town, the Girl Scouts were one of the few social outlets available to nine-year olds and the intense social pressures of the fourth grade fueled my many desperate attempts to love camp. An innately heathen child, I found Girl Scout meetings filled with making paper angels and yarn likenesses of Jesus a tiresome task. Even more horrific was my inability to escape just one church Sunday on those weekend campouts.

Today I relive my tender childhood camp experiences as a staff volunteer at Camp Quest, the very first summer camp for the children of the non-religious. You probably remember hearing about Camp Quest at some point in its decade of existence but what you may not know is that Camp Quest has made quite an impact during its short life. This summer marks our eleventh summer of operation and Camp Quest is larger and more popular then ever. The first camp was held in Kentucky in 1996, and moved to Ohio after being kicked out of a Baptist campground in 1997. The success of CQ Ohio (CQ Classic), inspired the opening of five new camps in the U.S. and Canada in the past three years: Camp Quest Minnesota, Michigan, Ontario, California (West), and Tennessee (Smoky Mountains). This exciting growth has not only allowed children and parents more access to camp but has earned Camp Quest media attention on Good Morning America, 20/20, and the New York Times as well as countless local news shows and newspapers.

QuestCamp Quest is the brainchild of the eccentric and passionate Edwin and Helen Kagin. I first made Edwin's acquaintance when he debated (and embarrassed) a fundamentalist Christian at Miami University of Ohio. The performance rather reminded me of Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan at the Scopes trial. Edwin has been in my heart ever since. This summer will be the first that Camp Quest operates without the direction of Edwin and Helen. After founding the camp in 1996 with the Free Inquiry Group of Cincinnati, the Kagins put their hearts (but not their souls) into the camp for the past ten years. The Kagins dedication has won them a dream: a summer camp experience for secular children that combines reason and critical thinking with traditional camp activities.

All six Camp Quest locations are accepting registrations for our summer 2006 sessions listed below. At camp, your child will not only come into contact with other secular children but they will also enjoy traditional camp activities such as tie-dying, horseback riding, swimming, campfires, chess, and challenge courses. CQ also offers campers lectures and activities on critical thinking, lessons on famous freethinkers, and opportunities for open dialogue about science, religion, and morality. At CQ we strive not only to expose campers to the lives, beliefs, and accomplishments of people like them and their families but also to the ideas of people who are not like them but share the world with us. Camp Quest is not only about helping campers find themselves in the secular community but also helping them to better navigate a world that is, overwhelmingly, religious. Additionally, if at any time a camper can prove that two invisible unicorns do not exist on the Camp Quest campgrounds they receive a coveted, but never yet awarded, trophy-a godless one hundred dollar bill (printed before 1954).

In the ten year history of Camp Quest, we have never had to turn down a child because of a parent's inability to pay. As camps grow and expand we hope to continue this important trend with your campership contributions. The entirety of your donation, large or small, will offset the cost of camp for children who would otherwise be unable to attend. You can visit www.camp-quest.org and make your donations online. It's secure and easy.

The children of Camp Quest are enthusiastic, brilliant, and are hungryAtheist baggage to discover new things about the world around them. After just a week of camp, campers build bonds that remain throughout the year and many campers have built life-long friendships that are renewed every summer at Camp Quest.

Feeling brave? You could apply for one of the all volunteer staff positions at one of these fine camps for a week this summer. Applications can be found on the websites for each camp (details listed below). CQ prides itself on a 1:2 staff to camper ratio. This fantastic ratio not only allows campers to find adult friends and mentors, but also allows CQ to tout a highly educated and diverse staff. Camp is so popular with the children that many of them grew up attending CQ for five, six, or even nine summers and joined the staff in their adulthood. Being a part of camp staff has frequently been described as one of the most rewarding and fun experiences that staff members have all year. I hope that you will join us in supporting and expanding this important service to the youth of our movement.

2006 Sessions:

Location Website
Camp Quest Smoky Mountains
www.rationalists.org/cq June 4-11
Camp Quest Classic (Ohio)
July 15-22
Camp Quest West (California)
July 15-21
Camp Quest Ontario
July 23-29
Camp Quest Minnesota
July 23-30
Camp Quest michigan
August 13-20

This article originally appeared as part of SSA eNews No. 11 - The SSA Around the World.
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