By Annette Alleva
The North Star Catholic
After presenting a “virtual” camping experience in the summer of 2020, Saint Therese’s Camp will be fully open this year. With a COVID mitigation plan in place to keep campers, staff, and families safe, as COVID begins to abate, the camp is anticipating a return to traditional activities for participants. Located near Wasilla, its summer program “is filled with adventure, challenge, a vibrant and beautiful environment and the joy of the Catholic faith,” according to its website: sttheresescampak.com.
Camp Director Rudy Poglitsch said Saint Therese’s camp has “in consultation with CDC documents, composed a COVID mitigation plan for summer camp.” It has been reviewed and approved by the Archdiocese of Anchorage-Juneau. He added, “We have changed some aspects of the flow of camp to limit the possible spread of the virus. Attentive campers might notice these adjustments compared to previous summers, but our goal is to keep ‘Fun, Faith, and Friends’ front and center and the primary experience of the campers.”
With that in mind, campers can expect all the features that have been offered in past summers. Sports activities are not limited to, but include soccer, Camp Olympics, messy wars—involving shaving cream and water balloons—and Ga Ga, a ball game enjoyed by and known to past participants.
Skill building activities include arts and crafts, archery and slingshot, a rock wall, Alaska survival skills, and others. The camp features “the Blob,” a large inflatable “pillow” onto which one camper jumps, catapulting another into the lake for those who enjoy water activities. Kayaking, paddle boats and swimming are also featured. Sand volleyball and fishing are offered for those who prefer to stay out of the water.
In addition to typical summer camp offerings, Saint Therese has the added dimension of helping young Catholics grow in their faith in less formal environments than are typically experienced. According to the camp’s website, “we make sure to show our campers that being a Catholic is a beautiful adventure.” Spiritual aspects are incorporated throughout a typical day at the residential camp, such as morning, afternoon and night prayer. Night prayer has different approaches, including adoration, sessions for boys and girls, and an opportunity for confession. Heart to heart talks about faith and life take place in the cabins at night, facilitated by camp counselors. Mass is offered daily. “Our goal is to give youth the confidence and the strength they need to continue their faith journey and to help them foster healthy vocations,” said Poglitsch.
He added, “Folks are eager for summer camp again. About half of this summer’s registrations were carried over from summer 2020, when we did not have camp. Camp is now 90% full for grades 3-8 and almost 100% full for high school week.” While “virtual camp” was an experiment in bringing a camp-like experience to families via online formats, with extensive and detailed suggestions families could incorporate into their daily activities, there are no plans to continue with the virtual components. However, the counselors will post photos and videos daily to keep family and friends updated on the happenings at the camp.
With “virtual camp” the only option last summer, it afforded Saint Therese’s the opportunity to complete various improvements to the grounds. Poglitsch said, “Five college students who would have been counselors came up as volunteers and did a tremendous volume of work.” While Covid was an inconvenience for many, it did offer the opportunity to complete projects that are best done in the summer but were not possible while camp was in session. Approximately 50 tons of cottonwood trees were removed, portions of two buildings got new coats of paint, and a flight of stairs was constructed connecting cabins to the Ga-Ga pit. Flower gardens were constructed near the main lodge as well.
Perhaps most importantly, the counselors took the time to send cards of encouragement to those children who had been registered for summer camp 2020. They also made phone calls and offered to pray with camp families, Poglitsch said.
Only one of the volunteers who spent this past summer sprucing up the camp grounds will return this year as a counselor. Three new individuals, who in the past have been campers or camp helpers, will be stepping into counselor roles this summer. “We’re pleased to see the progression of camper to camp helper to counselor bear fruit,” said Poglitsch.
As school ends and warmer weather approaches, the folks at Saint Therese’s Camp hope to “do camp as close to normal as we can, Poglitsch said. “Our goal this summer is our goal for every summer: Fun, Faith, and Friends. We aim to facilitate a meeting between the Lord Jesus and the campers through prayer, discussion and the sacraments in the context of God’s beautiful creation and amid outdoor fun. We also want our campers to develop solid friendships, because Jesus tells us that the greatest commandment is to love the Lord our God with everything we’ve got and that the second is to love our neighbors as ourselves.”
For further information, please visit the camp’s website noted above, or contact Rudy Poglitsch at 907-232-2066.