2016-06-30
Summer camp is not only about sports, swimming, and arts and crafts--it's about spirituality, too. A growing number of camps are offering spiritual activities--from Christian basketball to Tarot card reading to Israeli folk dancing. Beliefnet's guide to spiritual summer camps offers a glance at some of the unique summer offerings at camps from many different faith traditions.



Omega Teen Camp
What Is It? An alternative to traditional summer camps, the Omega Teen Camp in Holmes, New York opened in 2002 to offer teens a similar program to what Omega, the nation's largest holistic education center, has been offering adults since 1977. Campers engage in hands-on workshops and classes that build confidence and self-esteem while allowing for self-discovery. According to the camp's website, activities focus on "the integration of body, mind and spirit."
Who's Going? Teens age 13 to 17
Cool Activities: Thai massage, yoga, Tarot card reading, pilates, star navigation, spa treatments, Reiki, and meditation
Summer Highlight: Participation in the camp's sweat lodge ceremony (a sort of spiritual sauna) is considered the most popular and spiritually powerful camp activity.
Website: http://www.omegateencamp.org

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Hindu Heritage Summer Camp
What Is It? The Hindu Heritage Summer Camp, located in Rochester, New York allows Hindu youth to "explore and understand the diverse traditions and philosophies of Hinduism in an intellectual, nurturing, and fun-filled environment." The camp helps young Hindus discover what it means to be a Hindu-American.
Who's Going? Hindu youth, ages 8 to 16
Cool Activities: Meditation, yoga, studying Sanskrit, mantras, are more.
Summer Highlight: The camp has a Karma Yoga Scholars program for returning campers interested in learning leadership skills. In addition to a number of responsibilities, KYS campers keep a spiritual journal and participate in a day of silence.
Website: http://www.omhhsc.org

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Abilene Christian University's Basketball Summer Camp
What Is It? The Christian university, located in Abilene, Texas, plays host to thousands of kids and teens over the summer and offers 13 different kinds of camping opportunities—some focus purely on leadership building skills, while others focus on athletics. The boy's basketball camp has three different sessions based on age where they get a chance to improve their basketball abilities through drills and games. The girl's camp also has three sessions based on age and skill level. According to the university's website, the coaching staff "lead the campers in physical, mental, social and spiritual growth opportunities."
Who's Going? Christian boys and girls in 1st through the 12th grade.
Cool Activities: Basketball, and Christian-based lectures. The school also offers other camps for baseball, volleyball, football, soccer and more.
Summer Highlight: Sessions are held at ACU's 4,500-seat Moody Coliseum, so campers can experience what it's like to play on a big, professional court.
Website: http://www.acu.edu/sports/summer_camps.html

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Budding Yogis Summer Camp
What Is It? Using a combination of imaginative and physical activities, this summer day camp builds a sense of self-esteem and strength in children. Located in Washington D.C., the Budding Yogis Studio aims to teach children how to release stress through yoga movements, breathing exercises and creative projects. Campers learn in a relaxing and safe atmosphere, where trust and friendship are emphasized.
Who’s Going? Children between the ages of five and 12
Cool Activities: Yoga games, a challenge pose each week, self-calming and mindfulness exercises, music, crafts and journaling.
Summer Highlight: Through regular journaling activities, campers can keep track of all they learn and experience at the Budding Yogis studio. The journal serves as a sweet keepsake of the child’s physical and emotional growth at the camp, as well as a reminder of fun times and new friendships.
Website: http://www.buddingyogis.com/

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Muslim Youth Camp
What Is It? The camp, located in Fountain Valley, California, brings Muslims of all ethnicities and observance levels together for "Islamic living, learning and inspirational experiences in nature." MYC, which opened in 1961, focuses on leadership-building and offers classes that encourage critical thinking to work through contemporary problems.

Who's Going? Muslims of all ages, from around the world. The camp encourages entire families to attend, although children 9 and older may attend without their parents.
Cool Activities: Age-appropriate classes on Islam and Muslims in America taught by renowned Islamic scholars, sports, individual and group counseling, and prayer
Summer Highlight: Campers have the opportunity to lead the entire camp in prayer—in Arabic. Don't know how? The camp has a program that teaches the correct pronunciation and meanings.
Website: http://www.muslimyouthcamp.org



Camp Quest
What Is It? A summer camp for kids from atheist, agnostic, freethinking, and humanist families. Camp Quest has six locations throughout the U.S. and Canada. According to its mission statement, the camp is dedicated to "rational inquiry, critical and creative thinking, scientific method, self-respect, ethics, competency, democracy, free speech, and the separation of religion and government guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States."
Who's Going? Boys and girls ages 8 to 17.
Cool Activities: In addition to arts and crafts, the camp offers beekeeping, ventriloquism, critical thinking activities, and learning programs on ethics, evolution, astronomy, archeology and the supernatural, to name a few.
Summer Highlight: The Invisible Pink Unicorn Hunt, also known as the Invisible Green Dragon Hunt at the Minnesota camp. Campers are told there are two invisible unicorns (or dragons) on the campsite. If a camper can prove otherwise, he or she will win a "godless" $100 bill (bills printed prior to 1957 did not have the word "God" on them), or a "godless" $20 at the Minnesota branch. So far no campers have managed to claim the prize.
Website: http://www.camp-quest.org

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Our Lady of Victory Camp

What Is It? A Catholic camp run by young adults, which bills itself as a "faith experience which will last a lifetime." Located in Bentley, Alberta, Canada, the camp helps youngsters learn more about Catholicism.
Who's Going? Catholic youth between 9 and 13 years old.
Cool Activities: Daily liturgy, celebrating the sacraments, and learning about the Catholic faith. Traditional camp activities like sports and swimming are also a part of the camp experience.
Summer Highlight: Sing-alongs around the nightly campfires
Website: http://olvc.ab.ca  
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Camp Blue Star
What Is It? A Jewish camp located in Hendersonville, North Carolina. Blue Star has different camps for different age groups, plus one for families. Campers eat food kosher food, attend Shabbat services, take "Living Judaism" courses like Hebrew and Bar/Bat Mitzvah preparation.
Who's Going? Depending on the camp, Jewish kids and adults of all ages.
Cool Activities: Horseback riding, pottery, Israeli folk dancing and singing, swimming, boating, athletics, and more.
Summer Highlight: A camp carnival, which has rides, a dunking booth, food and more. Proceeds benefit a tzedakah (or charitable) project such as feeding the homeless in Jerusalem.
Website: http://www.bluestarcamps.com/

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Especially for Youth
What Is It? A Mormon Camp held at various university campuses throughout the U.S.
which aims to "encourage, assist, and guide participants as they strive to 'come unto Christ.'"
Who's Going? Mormon teens age 14 to 18.
Cool Activities: Games night, Cheer-offs (campers perform and present cheers and banners they've created during Games Night), dance competitions, Family Home Evening (includes prayer, songs, lessons and games), service projects, a variety show where campers can display their talents.
Summer Highlight: Banquet night, a semiformal dinner and awards ceremony held on the last night of camp.
Website: http://ce.byu.edu/yp/
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Bayside Unitarian Universalist Summer Camp
What Is It? A small family camp located on Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Mornings are usually devoted to workshops and worship for adults (the kiddies are taken care of), while the afternoon offers free time for families to spend together doing any number of the fun—and relaxing—activities at the camp.
Who's Going? Entire UU families attend, kids and adults, as well as single adults looking to get away.
Cool Activities: Games, water carnivals, weaving, poetry-writing, music, meditation, sailing, and Iyengar yoga among other things.
Summer Highlight: The Porch Workshop, which allows teens and adults to "explore the complex personal, spiritual, and political facets of contemplating the world" from an old wooden rocking chair on a large shaded porch overlooking Lake Geneva.
Website: http://www.yahoodrummers.com/bayside/index.html

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Mandala on the Mountain
What Is It? In a week-long program, children and teenagers interested in Buddhism will not only engage in traditional camp activities, but they’ll also have the opportunity to take part in and learn about sacred Buddhist customs – meditation, chanting, spiritual cleansing practices, and much more. The camp is held at Dharma Rain Zen Center, a temple for lay practice located 80 miles north of Portland, Oregon. Campers participate in workshops to learn juggling, taiko drumming, and kite making.”
Who’s Going? Youths between 9 and 18 years old, whose parents or families participate in a Buddhist sangha in the northern Oregon and southern Washington.
Cool activities: Ultimate Frisbee, water fights, harvesting plants to dye t-shirts, juggling, making clay rattles, origami and beading, spider hunting, among other engaging activities.
Summer Highlight: Campers live a genuine Buddhist lifestyle for a week: eating everything on their plates, maintaining periods of silence, and learning to take only what they need.
Website: http://www.dharma-rain.org/?p=programs_ds-camp

 
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Kids for Peace Camp
What Is It?  Kids for Peace day camp, located at four sites in Maryland, is based on the idea that peace in the world starts with understanding how other people live. Each week for eight weeks, campers take a “World Tour,” immersing themselves in international cultures—including Africa, Central America, Asia, and the U.S.—through hands-on arts and crafts, cooking, folktales, drama, games, music, and discussions of issues of peace and justice that affect those regions (e.g. girls’ education in Afghanistan, child labor in Brazil). Conflict resolution and peacemaking skills are also emphasized. Kids for Peace is not affiliated with any religion, but world religions are studied as part of culture.
Who’s Going? Kids between 6 and 14 years old
Cool Activities:  Field trips every week to advance cultural knowledge—last year’s trips included the American Museum of Natural History in NYC, a Ugandan dance festival, an Afghan tribal council, the Maryland Zoo, meals in ethnic restaurants.
Summer Highlight: International Day of Peace featuring “taste of the world” foods from all the countries studied.
Website: http://www.kidsforpeacecamp.com/



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