CYO summer campers grow in faith, numbers

  • Written by Brenda Sexton
  • Published in Local
CYO camps aim to instill a sense of adventure in kids as well as help them grow in faith. Photo: Courtesy CYO Camps CYO camps aim to instill a sense of adventure in kids as well as help them grow in faith. Photo: Courtesy CYO Camps

SEATTLE – More than 1,300 kids are already signed up for the unique experience of CYO summer camp, which blends Catholic faith and outdoor experiences.

“Any child that comes to CYO is going to grow,” said Shaune Randles, director of CYO camps for the Archdiocese of Seattle.

The CYO camps — Hamilton near Monroe and Don Bosco near Carnation — offer weeklong resident camps in July and August for kids from kindergarten through middle school. Don Bosco also offers weeklong day camps, and both camps have opportunities for teens to serve as leaders and counselors in training.

Last summer, the two camps hosted a total of 1,524 campers, Randles said. It’s not too late to sign up for this summer’s sessions, and financial assistance is available for families who need help paying the camp fees.

“In my two years, I’ve never turned a kid away, because it’s such a powerful experience,” Randles said, noting that 420 families received financial help last year so their kids could go to camp. (Learn more about financial aid.)

And this year, CYO is making it easier to get to camp by offering new bus routes from Everett and Olympia, as well as the usual routes from Seattle and Bellevue-Kirkland.

CYO CampAt Camp Hamilton near Monroe, a cabin group earned the honor banner for “being amazing and keeping a clean cabin,” said Shaune Randles, director of CYO camps. Photo: Courtesy CYO Camps

For parents like Deana Rudolph, whose children attend St. Joseph School in Issaquah, the Catholic identity of CYO camp is the draw.

“There are so many summer camps available, but I wanted to have one that was in line with our family values and what we teach at home,” said Rudolph, who will send four of her six (soon to be seven) children to camp this summer.

“I love that they go to Mass,” she said. “No other camp that I could send them to would offer that opportunity.”

Experiencing faith on their terms

Randles and his team are building on seven decades of CYO reputation as a quality program where kids have summer fun while living, learning and growing in the Catholic faith.

CYO also provides more than summer camps for kids. It offers family and women’s camps, confirmation retreats and environmental education programs for Catholic schools, in addition to renting its camps to youth groups and other users.

The summer camp program, Randles said, is progressive in nature, building on the previous summer’s camp experiences in interest areas that include equestrian, aquatics, innovation, archery and animals.

“I want to have the best summer camp; the fact that we’re Catholic sets us apart,” Randles said.

Kids don’t have to be Catholic to attend — in fact, about a third of campers aren’t, he said — but Catholic spirituality is at the heart of each camp session. Age-appropriate prayer, songs and themes are woven into the day, along with Catholic social teaching about care of creation and treating others with respect. The week culminates Friday with the celebration of Mass.

“Kids get to experience faith on their terms,” Randles said. “They’re actually getting to live it out. It’s a pretty amazing experience to have a Catholic camp.”

CYO CampSwimming in Lake Hannan is just one of the fun activities at the Archdiocese of Seattle’s CYO summer camp at Camp Hamilton, near Monroe. Photo: Courtesy CYO Camps

The program is seeing double-digit growth, Randles said. Many campers come from Seattle’s St. John and St. Joseph parishes, while other kids come from the far corners of the archdiocese like Sequim, Vancouver and Bellingham.

For campers from smaller parishes without large youth programs, coming to CYO camp can be an “eye-opening” experience, Randles said. “You get to take this back and be that light in your community.”

Rudolph said her kids enjoy meeting kids outside their school and their Issaquah community.

“They have friends from all over the archdiocese,” she said. “It’s their favorite week of the year.”

Watch the CYO summer camp video.