Many groups come to Camp Casey for their retreats or events, and every once in a while, the organizer is a SPU alum. So far, every alum that we’ve spoken to makes the same comment: “When it came time to find a venue for our event, Camp Casey was my first choice.” Jay Johnson, a Seattle native, was first introduced to Camp Casey at Seattle Pacific University during his freshman orientation. During the four years spent at Seattle Pacific, he traveled to Camp Casey on several other school related retreats and became acquainted with all that Casey and its surroundings have to offer.
Last year, 57 years after his first introduction to Camp Casey, Jay returned as the organizer for the Northwest Herb Symposium. This year, Jay’s symposium, the second annual, provided educational workshop tracks aimed at particular areas of interest. There was a general track with workshops for all levels and a track for practitioners, aimed at doctors and other health care professionals. There was even a track for beginners, as well as an hers and a kids track. “I couldn’t think of a better facility than Camp Casey to draw herbalists. Its energy and convenience is a natural fit. It's serendipity,” explains Jay recalling his initial planning for the symposium six years ago.
Jay hasn’t always been involved with wellness and preventive medicine. His career after college was in radio. Jay worked his way up to general manager in a Seattle radio station in the early '70s. At KTW and KTW-FM, he made his mark producing weekly radio programs. KTW-AM was the first full-time talk show format station in the Seattle market. After the radio station was sold in 1975, Jay found himself having to make a choice between moving away from the Pacific Northwest and staying in the radio business, or doing something different.
He chose to stay in the Seattle area and start his own business. This is where his journey into the health industry began. After doing some public relations work for a health food trade organization, he started making connections and branching out into various areas of health food and integrative medicine. Jay has always been passionate about bringing together people for the purpose of growth and learning. Six years ago, he came up with the idea of inviting some of the top teachers and practitioners in herbal and integrative medicine to a symposium where they could lecture and hold workshops for other interested parties. The Northwest Herb Symposium was born.
This past August nearly a dozen herbalists and practitioners presented four days of lectures and workshops to almost 100 symposium attendees. Many of them commented that in addition to the knowledge shared during the symposium, new friendships were developed during the morning and evening social events. The early morning and sunset beach walks, as well as ‘movie night’, provided an added sense of community. “Having lodging, meals, and meeting rooms/auditorium all in one location, at an affordable rate, was a plus," says one participant.Being in a historic location, surrounded by the natural beauty of the Puget Sound, Fort Casey, Admiralty Head Lighthouse, and Crocket Lake put an exclamation mark on the symposium” said one of the participants. It seems Jay Johnson knows how to pick a venue.
If your group happens to be mostly comprised of families with young children and you are looking for the ideal location for a group retreat, look no further than Camp Casey. At least that’s what Sonja Erickson, Bethany Community Church Northeast children's director, tells everyone. This year’s group comprising about 100 adults and 20 children camped in the campground for their weekend stay. Sonja explains, “It’s easy to get stuck in a rut, but there’s nothing like a camping trip to shake things up, trigger new conversations, and create wonderful lifelong memories.” She said it adds an element of adventure to life, and “kids thrive on that, as do adults.”
The retreat’s goals were simple: to connect, build relationships, and have fun. The morning of the first full day, Sonja says they were well on their way. The children played in the woods while several of the adults gathered at the fire pit near the Colonel’s House to plan their day’s excursions. Hiking Ebey’s Landing trail, visiting the Admiralty Lighthouse, and Fort Casey were all on the list. The younger members of the group, however, seemed to be captivated by a comment about setting up a makeshift waterslide in the field. Okay, maybe there would be no hiking.
Even though Sonja has only been bringing her group to Camp Casey for two years, she is familiar with the area. The first clue that she has been around for a while is when she refers to the Colonel’s House as ‘the blue house’. For those of you who might have been around Camp Casey in the mid '80s, you’ll remember that at one time the Colonel’s house was painted blue. In addition to several sport camps, her family stayed at the Colonel’s house for weekend getaways. Sonja’s father has been on the SPU staff for most of her life. A benefit to SPU faculty, staff, and/or alumni is the permission to use parts of the Camp Casey facilities. Sonja is not the only group member with ties to Camp Casey. Jenni Gabhart, associate pastor at Bethany, came to Camp Casey for retreats as a Seattle Pacific University alumna.
It’s always great when alumni and SPU faculty or staff bring their groups to Camp Casey, but SPU employment is not a requirement. Our facilities are available to non-profit organizations and we love starting new relationships. If your non-profit group is looking for a historic venue surrounded by nature, give us a call.
Rarely does one find such a large gathering of nationally acclaimed educators and practitioners in the field of herbal medicine as was seen at“Botanicals at the Beach,”the 2016 Northwest Herb Symposium. The following are names you might expect to see individually as guest lecturers of integrative health programs at your local college or university, but not collectively at one event. Michael & Lesley Tierra, Amanda McQuade Crawford, Jillian Stansbury, Ryan Drum, EagleSong , Evans Gardener, Katolen Yardley, Netta Zeberoff Fominoff, Elaine Sheff, Denise Joy, Julie Charette Nunn, and Leslie Lekos all contributed to the immense learning experience to those who attended.
Bringing these highly recognized individuals to one location for a four-day (two half-days and two full-day) provides for an extensive schedule of talks and workshops. There was a general track with workshops for all levels, a track for practitioners (aimed at physicians and other health care professionals), and a track for beginners, including herbalists and kids. What makes this symposium so special is that everyone took lodging and meals together at the same location, with mornings and evenings filled with activities that promote community and discovery.
Imagine starting your day off at daybreak with yoga led by Leslie Lekos, voted Best Yoga in Bellingham for eight years in a row; or doing a marine walk with Ryan Drum, one of the most respected and experienced herbalists and wild crafters in North America today. To wrap up the symposium, the keynote address was given by Joseph Pizzorno, founding president, now president emeritus, of Bastyr University. Bastyr is the first fully accredited, multidisciplinary university of natural medicine in the United States. And finally, before participants left Camp Casey, they all joined in a closing circle led by EagleSong, a fourth generation gardener and community herbalist.
Generally, symposiums are stacked with back-to-back lectures and classes. Not the case here. Yes, the days were filled with learning options, but the entire experience included lots of connections happening outdoors, and community bonding indoors, during the catered meals and movie night. The event organizer and SPU alumnus, Jay Johnson says: “Camp Casey was the ideal choice for the event. Its natural setting and energy, as well as being able to have lodging, dining, and meeting facilities all in one location, is what sets Camp Casey apart.”
Pastor David Gerzsenye is no stranger to Whidbey Island or Camp Casey. He spent some of his youth growing up on the south end of the island and still has family here. Each of his five daughters came to Camp Casey with their 5th grade class, so years ago when he needed a venue for his church group retreat, Camp Casey was the obvious choice.
Over time, Pastor David’s Redmond-based Washington Cathedral started using Camp Casey for several of their groups and retreats - both winter and summer church retreats, men’s retreat, and leadership retreats. “When we arrive at Camp Casey, it’s like a family visit.” says Pastor David, “The staff are very friendly and supportive. They are like our brothers and sisters.”
This August, Pastor David brought his singles group for their annual summer retreat with the theme: "Words can heal: How we talk to God, each other, and ourselves.” He points out that most of his group is middle aged and almost ¾ of the group are divorcees. “Washington Cathedral is a recovery oriented church, so it is natural that the singles group has a strong presence in the church.” He goes on to explain that the Church focuses on the Gospel as it is written and strives to create an atmosphere of love and tolerance.
The agenda for the four days at Camp Casey was divided into gatherings for breakfast, energy and praise music sessions, and breakout sessions. Afternoons were open to what was billed as “free time and/or adventures”. Pastor David listed several local favorites as suggestions:
· Explore Lavender Wind Farm on North Beach Road
· Hike the north beach at Deception Pass
· Picnic or walk the beach at Camp Casey
· Visit historic, downtown Coupeville
· Take the ferry to visit historic Port Townsend
After dinner, the group gathered for singing before going on a sunset walk where they are asked to use the time for silent reflection. After the walk, they once again break into small groups for themed discussions, hallelujahs, and praise! Saturday night featured a Lip-Sync/Talent Contest.
Staying in the BOQ offers lodging, kitchen and dining, as well as meeting rooms. Groups like Washington Cathedral Singles find the facilities and surrounding area to be conducive to building community and relationships, while being able to cook their own meals adds to the bonding and social interaction between members.
It was Evette Hackman’s turn to plan and host the 24th biennial family reunion and it was no surprise that she chose Camp Casey for the big event. Evette, a former associate professor for Family and Consumer Sciences at SPU for 13 years, has had lots of experience visiting Camp Casey. Whether it was for the annual faculty retreat, department workshops, or simply a long weekend away with the family, Evette always enjoyed being able to get away and unplug in a historic setting surrounded by vast natural beauty.
Like most modern families, the Hackman family, originally from Nebraska, has branched out to numerous states. What’s unique about them however is their commitment to get the family together every two years for a family reunion. This year, 72 members of the Hackman family, ages 7 to 95 years old, gathered at Camp Casey for four days of getting reacquainted, bonding, and fellowship. Family members traveled from 13 different states to participate in this year’s reunion. The farthest family member drove in from Erie, Pennsylvania.
What did they as a group find the best attribute of having the reunion at Camp Casey? “Being able to provide activities and things to do for such an age diverse group of people has always been the challenge,” said Evette, “Camp Casey’s surroundings are so diverse, however, that everyone was able to get outside and enjoy nature. The children and younger groups spent most of their time on the beach, while some of the older groups enjoyed the hiking paths through the forest. Everyone enjoyed visiting nearby Fort Casey and the Admiralty Head Lighthouse”, explained Evette. “There was even plenty of accessible walking paths for the ‘over 90s’ group to enjoy.”
People who have brought their groups to Camp Casey for retreats, reunions, workshops, or camps all share similar stories. Camp Casey boasts broad open fields in a historic location surrounded by diverse natural beauty. Whether you prefer beaches, forests, or wetlands, we have it all. Interested in history? Fort Casey and the Admiralty Head Lighthouse are just a short walk away.