What Camp Quest Means to Me: Liberty Bliss

Liberty Bliss has been going to Camp Quest since the first year of Camp Quest Chesapeake in 2011. She started as a CIT, and now coordinates the CIT program.

Liberty and frogs

Growing up, I was raised by a freethinking mother who started the first secular homeschooling group in our area. My mother taught me to think for myself and to be respectful of other people and their beliefs, and as a kid, that's how I expected everyone else to be. When I entered my teens, I discovered that this was not the case. My self identification as an atheist set me apart from the other kids, and not in a cute and quirky way.

Lacking a community on the ground, I turned to the online non-theist and skeptic communities as I tried to understand what being an atheist said about me. It was online that I found out about Camp Quest Chesapeake and excitedly sent it to my mother. Then 16 years old, I had never been to summer camp, but I was thrilled at the idea of spending time with likeminded kids my age.

I didn't know it until I got to camp, but as a sixteen year old I was classified as a Counselor-in-Training.  I was assigned to assist the counselors in the youngest girl's cabin. Had I known that, I Liberty teaching knotsmight have reconsidered attending camp. At 16, I was shy and not at all confident in my abilities. At the time, I thought, Who in their right mind would put me in charge of children? I just wanted to be a kid and not be judged for my lack of religious faith. » Read more

What Camp Quest Means to Me: Paul Chiariello

PaulPaul Chiariello loves board games, books, traveling, humanism, and ethics. He loves humanism and ethics so much in fact that he's the head of Camp Quest's HELP Curriculum (Humanistm, Ethic, Logic, Philosophy) and works on the Ethics Video Library, a video library that partners Camp Quest and American Ethical Union together to provide a wide range of videos for educators and parents for educational purposes. Paul is also one of out senior leaders at Camp Quest New England helping with planning and programming for our campers there. Hear what Paul has to say about his experiences with Camp Quest! 

Camp Quest means a lot of things to me.  It’s an amazing community of friends and mentors, a chance to get out into nature, and - for both better and worse - the most exhausting week of my year.  It’s also the place where I feel I really give back the most; where I’m doing some actual good in the world. 

Education has been a passion of mine for as long as I can remember.  I’ve worked as an English and chess teacher, as well as with international policy and research concerning identity based conflict in education.  So I absolutely jumped at the chance to get involved with Camp Quest curriculum building.  Over my two years with CQ Chesapeake, and now for a year with the brand new CQ New England, I’ve had a lot of opportunities to help design and run fun, meaningful activities.  » Read more

Envision 2020: Help Camp Quest Double in 5 Years!

Camp Quest has 2020 Vision

Mia Envision 2020 Camp QuestThis year Camp Quest turns 20, and my how we've grown: from 20 campers in 1996 to more than 1,000 in 2014. But there is so much more we can do...

With your helpwe can double that impact in five years.

The Stiefel Freethought Foundation has awarded us a $50,000 matching grant that will double your gift.

Imagine more than 2,000 youth ages 8-17 participating in one of thirty five week-long sessions held only a car drive away from every major city in America. » Read more

What Camp Quest Means to Me: Janie Oyakawa

JanieJanie Oyakawa loves her big family. She and her husband have six kids, all whom attend Camp Quest Texas. Janie volunteers as a counselor for Camp Quest Texas and as the national LAUGH curriculum group leader (leadership, arts, unity, games, and health).

When Janie was a child she was Mormon and attended Mormon summer camp. Read on to hear more about her experiences from both inside and outside the church.  

I went to "Young Women's camp" every year that I was eligible for it in the Mormon Church. It starts when you are twelve. It is camp in the sense that you are in the woods in cabins and you do things like hike, but it is nothing like Boy Scout camp. The boys in the Mormon Church get scouts but the girls don't. The boys also get about three times the budget. They do things like rock climbing and knife sharpening. Girls hike and bear testimonies ad nauseum and talk about the joys of motherhood that await. College is strongly encouraged but only so that you have something "to fall back on" if something (god forbid) is to happen to your husband.

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What Camp Quest Means to Me: Holly O'Brien

Holly doing henna

Holly O'brien is your friendly neighborhood barista, keeping the masses caffinated with a smile. She lives with her partner, who is in school to become an ASL interpreter, and his mother and step-dad. Holly has goals of moving to Rochester, New York and getting 19 cats, all whom which she's already picked out names for.

Holly also loves Camp Quest, even though she's not into the idea of camping. In the past two years, Holly's moved from being a first time volunteer camp counselor, to being a board member and part of the planning committee. She wants to help spread the joy of Camp Quest wherever she goes. Hear how she got involved and why. 

 Ten years ago, one of the most important, life-changing events happened in my life: my family left Religion. I came from a Fundamentalist, Evangelical Christian background, and spent my entire childhood going to Church at least three days a week and attending a private Christian school. Every part of my daily life was completely immersed in indoctrination and religious dogma. At the time, I didn't necessarily see anything wrong with it. I was a kid who was mostly concerned with playing with my friends, acting as the classroom teacher to my stuffed animals and playing outside in my magical world of make-believe. I went along with the religion because it was the life my family was choosing to live. As I got older, I started to ask questions about and challenge what I was being told, instead of just accepting it as fact or truth. Needless to say, my questioning the indoctrination process was not well received by the Church. My mother, however, continued to encourage us to ask questions and think for ourselves. Then came the breaking point. » Read more

Raising (Actual) Freethinkers, a talk by Dale McGowan

Dale MoGowan is a secular parenting author, director of Foundation Beyond Belief, and parent to a Camp Quest camper. Dale also co-wrote a book called Raising Freethinkers with Amanda Metskas, Camp Quest's executive director. He has facilitated charitable giving by the secular community and helps parents with awesome advice for raising freethinking children. 

Last year at the Oklahoma Freethought Convention, FREEOK, Dale gave a great talk with a lot of advice on raising freethinking children. Check out his talk! 



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Why do we need a Secular Summer Camp? [podcast]

Katie at a tableKatie Hladky, our interim executive director just sat down with Spencer Hawkins and Andres Salais over at Unbelievers Radio to discuss Camp Quest.

They spoke about why there's a need for a secular summer camp, how Camp Quest is different from traditional summer camps, and children and teens interest in philosophy.  

Listen here!

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What Camp Quest Means to Me: Caleb Davis

Caleb looking upCaleb Davis studies social work at West Virginia University, and after graduation he plans to work for Child Protective Services. At 17, Caleb discovered a passion for music, playing guitar and singing in several bands. As founder and president of his school's Secular Student Alliance, Caleb has set himself apart as a campus leader and activist. Indeed, it was his work with the Secular Student Alliance that first led him to Camp Quest. Although he was initially skeptical about the idea of a secular summer camp, today he feels right at home. 

My name is Caleb Davis and I am a cabin counselor with Camp Quest Chesapeake. I work at a burrito joint, attend West Virginia University for social work, and in 2 weeks I turn 22. I spend a lot of time in self-reflection because West Virginia can be a pretty lonely place for a freethinker. » Read more

What Camp Quest Means to Us: The Troxell Family

Abby and kidsThe Troxell Family has been attending Camp Quest Ohio since 2009. The family is comprised of mom, Abby Barker Troxell, who works as a personal banker, dad, Spencer Troxell, who works as a behavioral case manager, and three great little boys, Eliot (13), Jack (9), and Langston (3). They all live in Cincinnati, Ohio and have two chihuahuas named Schopy and Ralph, and a weird cat named Elifuege, who lives in their basement. 

This awesome secular family was searching for a community for their children, hear what they have to say about what they found in Camp Quest!

Community is not a concept that is familiar to my wife and I. We are both the black sheep of our respective families, and have struggled throughout our lives with being outsiders in virtually every setting. 

Enter our kids. 

Upon the birth of our eldest son, we decided we wanted to penetrate this mystery of community, and find a setting where our children could be at once embraced and challenged, without having their essential uniqueness stripped of them. 

Spencer and Kids

We tried several venues. Churches. Community organizations. None stuck in exactly the right way. My wife and I had grown into fairly radical individualists, and something about the community structure of most organizations taxed something essential about us. Even the most welcoming organizations demanded a certain amount of conformity.

Enter Camp Quest. 

We learned about Camp Quest through Richard Dawkins' website. My wife had always been somewhat ambiguous about religion, but when I grew out of my faith, I did so in a somewhat flamboyant fashion. I was drawn out of the comfort zone of my religion by Christopher Hitchen in particular, but the other three horsemen also intrigued me. I began my reading as a believer seeking to sharpen his faith against the iron of non-believers, and found myself eventually convinced that I was on the wrong team. This revelation came at a good time, because my kids were still young. I can't imagine the damage I might have done to them if I had tried to impart some elements of my former faith to them, had it survived their infanthood. In fact, the birth of my children has a huge effect on my move away from religious faith; faith had been a deleterious factor in my life overall. I can't imagine teaching my children about hell or vicarious redemption. » Read more

Exclusive Scouting and the Defamation of Atheists

MarthaMartha Knox is a long time supporter and volunteer for Camp QuestHer article below discusses Camp Quest in relation to other scouting options and the challenges of nontheistic parenting. This article is reprinted with permission from the July/August 2014 Freethought Society newsletter.

A year ago the Boy Scouts of America adopted a resolution to end the ban on openly gay scouts. Many cheered, despite the fact that the BSA – the scouting group with the greatest resources and prominence in American society – still won’t allow openly gay leaders and continues its ban on atheist leaders and scouts.

In response, Herb Silverman, founder of the Secular Coalition for America, lamented, “There is no similar step forward for atheists. This modified policy would still require local groups to discriminate against atheists, apparently because the Boy Scout Oath implies that an atheist can’t be ‘morally straight’ unless he can do his ‘duty to God.’” 

Using this twisted logic, a number of courageous and honest atheists have been kicked out of the Scouts for rejecting all supernatural beliefs. Among them was my friend Darrell Lambert, an Eagle Scout, who had been supported by his entire troop.

 » Read more

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