Sarah Miller: Camp Quest teaches kids secular ideals
In 2018, thanks to the Freedom From Religion Foundation and Nonbelief Relief, 25 campers attended who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to afford this life-changing experience.
By Sarah Miller
Since 1996, Camp Quest has provided a supportive environment for children of nonreligious families. Over the past quarter century, our commitment to inclusion, empathy and respect for difference has made Camp Quest a vibrant and diverse community.
Now, with an expansive network of affiliate camps across the United States, Camp Quest continues to play a crucial role in the development of a new generation of secular youth. In 2018, Camp Quest programs served children from 36 states, and the demand for Camp Quest’s unique take on secular summer adventuring continues to grow.
Camp Quest programs help campers develop critical thinking skills, grow empathy in relationships and communities, and offer one-of-a-kind learning experiences grounded in science, ethics, philosophy and nature. Camps typically operate week-long residential sessions for children aged 8-17. We welcome children and teenagers from all backgrounds and teach them to respect others while taking pride in themselves.
Our society needs Camp Quest at this critical moment. The percentage of nonreligious youths is rising at a rate never seen before. Generation Z, which is comprised of children and teens born since 1999, is the first post-Christian generation. More than 35 percent of youth report that they identify as atheist, agnostic or do not claim a religious identity. A further 7 percent are of non-Christian faiths.
With an unprecedented number of young people rejecting dogma and choosing to think for themselves, it is vital that we provide both a community and a moral framework that can nurture and guide our children as they build their futures and form a bulwark against the regressive tide of religious oppression. Camp Quest provides a nurturing environment for campers that fosters the development of reason, integrity and empathy — skills that are solely needed in today’s confusing and polarized political climate.
Scores of dedicated Camp Quest volunteers nationwide have spent years developing supportive and inclusive programs, firmly grounded in secular humanist values, that provide a safe, ethically-based community for all children. Repeatedly, at camps across the country, parents tell us that their children are transformed after a week at Camp Quest. Campers return home more confident, outgoing and happier than when they arrived.
Camp Quest inspires youths to live life well and fully, guided by empathy, discovery and critical thinking. Our campers carry that inspiration into their adult lives. Many Camp Quest alums return as counselors and apply the skills they learn at camp to new leadership roles. Amanda Werner, a Camp Quest Chesapeake alumna and counselor, shares why camp is meaningful to her:
“The beauty of Camp Quest is that its importance is boundless and immeasurable. It means something different but equally valuable to every single person who is touched by its magic. My life will forever be shaped by my experiences at Camp Quest as a camper, peer leader and counselor. I was thrilled to continue my own journey at Camp Quest as a counselor two years ago, and I keep returning. I return because I know that I play a small part in something much larger than myself. One week of positive influence can forever change the direction of a camper’s life, especially one that feels insecure in their home community. Camp Quest plays a crucial role in the lives of campers and staff as a supportive, safe place for freethinkers and nonbelievers.
“It teaches how to respectfully question beliefs and think critically about the surrounding world. Campers leave with the confidence and tools to have thought-provoking conversations with neighbors, friends and family who view the world differently. Campers and staff develop meaningful relationships that last far into the future. For so many of us, Camp Quest is a family, a home and a community that will always live in our hearts.”
Camp Quest is grateful for the support we receive from members of FFRF and Nonbelief Relief who make this important work possible. Together, we will support secular youth as they take their place in the world.
Ways you can support Camp Quest
• Volunteer as a counselor or camp leader.
• Provide a camp scholarship to a child in need.
• Invite our staff to speak to your organization or group.
• Host or sponsor a Leadership Training Series webinar.
• Support promotion of Camp Quest at national conferences and events.
• Sponsor Leadership Summit and Volunteer Travel Grants.
• Invest in future development of day camps and year-round programs.
Please visit CampQuest.org to register for the 2019 season, help or volunteer.
Sarah Miller is Camp Quest’s development director.