Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
March 23, 2009
Camp Encounter, a camp for all seasons
After a financial scramble, this Catholic camp bounced back with more schools, plus plans to attract revenue building corporate retreats.
Camp Encounter is filled with Christ's spirit.
The camp’s financial crisis began in late 2006 and in the spring of 2007, the camp halted its operations, except for its summer camp. So schools that come to the camp from March till the end of June had to go elsewhere.
Camp director Dale Kiselyk, who was laid off in April 2007 and then rehired six months later, said that in 2008 “we saw a surge of schools that returned after having left during the crisis period.”
“Our crisis period really only went for about six months and we were able to turn around and started building back up. A lot of schools came running back and the nice thing is that a whole bunch of new schools have come out too.”
Now about 35 schools, ranging from elementary to senior high, use the camp facilities.
“As of now, we have everything running and we have expanded our program to take up more winter rentals,” noted program director David Graves. “We’ve had four retreats with Aboriginal Learning Services this month alone, which is in some ways new for Camp Encounter. We’ve always had a few winter rentals, but we are getting a lot more costumers this time of the season than usual.”
Camp Encounter offers three programs — the summer camp program in which parents send their kids for a week at a time, the school program, which is the entire school year, and then there are also facility rentals for groups and organizations.
Camp Encounter is now looking at the possibility of corporate retreats.
“It’s kind of a new area for us,” Kiselyk said. “Our reason for that is we have a terrific facility and there are a few spaces in between school groups and rental groups and we would like to fill those spaces with some sort of revenue creator. Our staff is well trained at conducting team-building activities.”
The camp is open 12 months of the year. Generally schools come out through March to the end of November.
“We are already taking registration for summer camp,” Kiselyk said. “That process started at the end of February and will go right up until June.”
Typically the summer camp fills up with around 380 people, in addition to a host of volunteers and paid staff. Almost 3,000 people a year stay at the camp.
Summer camp starts July 5 with Leadership Week, when several dozen counsellors are trained in a wide range of issues in a Christian setting. They learn, for example, how to manage a group and how to deal with homesick campers.
“Then we run summer camp programs all through the summer until Aug. 21,” Graves noted.
The three things that Camp Encounter does best is Christ, Community and Creation, said Kiselyk, 40.
“For me the camp experience is a rich experience for just about everybody that comes out,” he said.
“For most people that come to camp whether it is a school or a summer camp they come home with something. They always get something out of the retreat, whether it’s just fun or an escape from the city or whether it is deeply spiritual.
“And they learn something about relationships and self-worth.”
Camp staff and volunteers are able to role model the teachings of Christ through their behaviour and they also create community, he said.
“We’ve got a lot of mentoring techniques and community building activities that allow us to reach out and have an effect on people that lasts throughout the year,” Kiselyk said.
“It’s a really beautiful spot we have here and right now our facility looks really tight and really new and everything is in really good shape.”
Lisa Allen of Spruce Grove has been spending part of her summers at Camp Encounter since age nine and wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.
“I really liked the camp experience and the sense of community I found there and the beauty of it,” the 22-year-old Grant MacEwan College student said. “This summer would be my 14th summer there.”
At age 14 Allen became a counsellor and now serves as the camp’s director of recreation. “For me the biggest thing I love about it is how it incorporates nature and creation and community into the camp experience.”
Claire Trottier, 17, a Grade 11 student at St. Albert High, decided to check out the camp a few years ago and immediately fell in love with it.
“I really enjoyed it. It’s a different atmosphere.”
Now Trottier serves as a volunteer counsellor. “I have been a shy type all my life, but (at Camp Encounter) they made time to get to know me and to make me feel welcome. Now I feel totally comfortable around everyone.”
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