Go Camp Casey

By Richard 18 Oct, 2016

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.

By Richard 27 Sep, 2016

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.

By Richard 06 Jul, 2016

"What if your faith could grow deeper simply by opening yourself to God’s grace and listening to the voice of Love that is speaking at every moment?" With that simple question, Brian Gregory, associate for Youth Ministries, extended an invitationto a high school retreat to the members of St. Thomas Episcopal Church. .

Brian is an alum of Seattle Pacific University. He received his undergraduate in Theology/Educational Ministry in 2007 and his master of divinity degree in 2015. Like many of our alumni, he has a personal history with Camp Casey – spending three summers here during high school working with Kiwanis, on dorm retreats during his undergraduate years, and for a long weekend as part of his master's degree program.   When asked if that was why he looked to Casey for this retreat, he answered quickly, "Not really." What made him choose our setting was the stillness and the beach. He wanted a venue that was far enough away to get the effect of getting away, but close enough to Medina that it would be an easy trip for his students.

On a Friday in early March, Brian, along with two other adults and eight high school students, arrived at Camp Casey. He instructed his students to take the first hour to rest.   Unlike many of the youth groups that come to Camp Casey with agendas packed with activities, Brian cautioned his students, "You are here now. There are no expectations. No activities scheduled. Just use the time to rest."

One of the values identified for the youth ministry of St. Thomas Episcopal Church is for their students to be curious. Brian quotes Romans 12:2: "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind." Brian's weekend retreat is designed to do just that. Cell phones and iPods are left behind. Since prayer comes in many forms, he asks that the students be contemplative and imaginative. Using Scripture stories from the gospel and the practice of praying, he has them walk the beach to reflect. He encourages them to be intentional. He asks them to pay attention to what's around them and to find God's presence.

What will you find at Camp Casey? Are you looking for a quieter setting where you can spend more time looking inward or will you explore beautiful Whidbey Island and the areas that surround Camp Casey? Camp Casey is all about learning, connecting, and discovering. The ‘how’ is up to you.

By Richard 29 Dec, 2015

As a young boy, a photo of a small Ryan LaBrie stuffed inside a cannon was captured as he and his father toured Fort Casey State Park. It was a photo that LaBrie, associate professor of management and information systems, would duplicate years later with his own 6-year-old son.

As an undergraduate student at SPU in the mid ‘80s, he again spent summers at Camp Casey, this time as a grounds keeper living in the barracks. However, it wasn’t until his sophomore year that he met Jenifer, a new high school graduate working in the camp kitchen. They started dating and by the end of summer he discovered that she would also be attending SPU. It was then that he knew they would be wed. As a side note, Jenifer LaBrie is currently assistant director for prospect research and management, responsible for all aspects of donor research in support of SPU’s major gift department.

Fast forward to 2010 when Ryan, and four other faculty members began hosting and participating in the annual Business Residency retreat. Twenty-four newly minted business graduates enrolled in an intensive escape to Whidbey for a mid-summer retreat. They gather from across the country and spend part of their time breaking bread, relaxing, and building relationships that will carry them through their program and on to their final assignments in Asia and India at the end of the year. The remainder of the time, the teams prepare for their board room assignment. This year's board room exercise focused on the restaurant industry. Students were provided with a case study and asked to act as a consultant and make recommendations. CEOs and executive chefs were invited to listen to their presentations and provide evaluations and feedback - think Shark Tank. Presentations are videotaped and before their departure, each of the presentations was given a 360 degree evaluation by all of their teammates. This event is considered the capstone to the retreat.

After earning his bachelor of arts degree in computer science, Ryan secured a job with Microsoft and spent 10 years working as a support engineer, technical trainer, team manager, and program manager. He returned to SPU to complete his master's degree in information systems management in 1997, and started working part-time as an adjunct professor while continuing to work at Microsoft. This sparked an interest in teaching full time and the promise of a future role, if he completed his doctorate. That resulted in his move to Phoenix to complete his doctorate in computer information systems at Arizona State and his love for golf in 100-degree temperatures.

Far from the end of his career, Ryan has almost a 40-year connection to Camp Casey and a new generation coming up behind him. It’s not too late to start making your own memories at Casey. Not an instructor at SPU and no reason to hold a business retreat? Don’t let that hold you back.  SPU alumni are welcome!

By Richard 29 Nov, 2015

Over the years when discussing our campers’ experiences, we’ve shared memories of friendships and good times spent on the grounds of Camp Casey. But, until now, we were not aware of any “love connections” that have resulted.

A recent discussion with Seattle Pacific University alum Danny Walter produced both. Having spent the summer of ’92 as an SPU day camp counselor, he said it was the best summer of his life. As a camp counselor he frequented our neighbor Ft. Casey by day, leading activities and playing sardine (yes, it’s a real game … look it up!)

His fondest memory, however, is sharing the barracks with other day camp counselors and the cleaning and landscaping staff during that summer. While they worked hard during the day, they had the evenings to themselves. Those nights were filled with forming new and long-lasting friendships. They enjoyed playing games like Uno, basketball, volleyball – and partaking in all the other amenities the camp had to offer. A product of the relationships they built was the Thomas Parker Club. On the heels of the "Dead Poets Society" movie, Danny and his friends looked for a similar outlet. Every Wednesday, within the dark walls of Thomas Parker battery with candles lit, the friends shared readings, thoughts, and dreams for the future. It is a practice that has continued over the years – just not always on Wednesday nights and no longer on the grounds of Camp Casey. Just another example of what forming strong friendships will bring into adulthood.

Fast forward several years to Danny becoming a member of the improv team for Taproot Theatres. By the way, did you know that   Taproot Theatre Company   was founded in 1976 by six friends, five of them graduates from SPU? As part of this traveling troupe, they provided the evening’s entertainment for a faculty retreat at Camp Casey. Enter the future Sarah Walter. Sarah has always spent a lot of time at Camp Casey organizing faculty retreats and this evening was no different. The two had an opportunity to meet and the rest is history. He and Sarah actually spent their honeymoon at Camp Casey.

Danny is a writer, actor, and recently has become house manager for the Edmonds Center for the Arts. His wife, Sarah, works at SPU as the executive assistant to Jeffrey Jordan, vice president for student life at SPU.

Do you have an alum story to share that involves Camp Casey? We’d love to tell all our readers.

By Richard 29 Oct, 2015

Rainier Christian Middle School students don’t just survive – they THRIVE!  That's their motto and their focus is on educating and developing the whole person for the glory of God - spiritually, academically, emotionally, socially, and physically.

We love it when former camp attendees, especially SPU alumni teachers, come back to Camp Casey with their students to share in the same experiences the teachers had as children. An SPU Alumna visited Camp Casey again this past May. In keeping with one of the schools goals of “maintaining intellectual curiosity” and being a “life-long learner”, teacher Angela Pierotti accomplished both of these. She brought 60 students, parents, and teachers from the 6th grade of Maple Valley Elementary and Kent View Elementary to experience nature, build friendships, and grow closer to God. This trip is a culmination of the school year where they’ve researched words such as biodiversity, conservation, crepuscular, and habitat to prepare for their studies. While at camp, they receive additional instruction from the 6th grade teachers about animals, soil, and fire. In addition to being a favorite activity among the students (and adults), attending the Sea Lab and Beach Seine classes further reinforce learning.

Students enjoyed time building forts on the beach, playing sports on the field, hide-and-seek in the woods, and rock painting at the picnic tables. They visited Fort Casey for a few hours exploring the different levels of the fort and sharing their discoveries with friends. Several of the groups also went to the nearby Admiralty Head lighthouse to visit the museum and climb to the lantern room. During the Beach Seine class they were able to help pull in the net and view fish and invertebrates up close. Thanks to being blessed with beautiful sunny weather during their stay, one of the first things the group did was taking their “RCS” picture on the field.

Another highlight was signing and releasing "boats" into the ocean. Each student received a small block of wood that was called a “boat” and was tasked with writing their first name, boat number, and a school email address on the boat. After everyone was finished, the group walked down the beach and on the count of three threw their boats into the water. It was fun to track the boats and look for patterns of the way they travel as they are found and reported.

Angela said “it is incredible to return to Camp Casey now as an RCS teacher ... I am able to witness my students making many of the same memories I made in elementary school. Camp Casey is a special place.  I look forward to returning next year.”

Would you like to continue your childhood tradition and make more memories at Camp Casey?

By Richard 08 Sep, 2015

Touted as the world’s premier distance runner during the ‘60s, Doris Heritage continues her long tradition of coaching and mentoring young runners by being a Falcon Running Camp coach. This two-time Olympian, five-time world champion, former Olympic coach and longtime member of the SPU cross country coaching staff, gives her time freely at the Falcon Running Camp. In addition to the usual coaching tasks, she sat for an hour-long interview where she discussed what it was like growing up on Gig Harbor and how she developed her passion for running. As she tells it, it wasn’t until participating in a running camp in the early 60’s that she learned about training and running drills. She explained that her participation in running programs taught her much more than just the fundamentals of the sport. In a time when racial segregation was the norm and women were excluded from many activities we take for granted today, she joined a very few who stood by their principles and led by example. When participating in a running camp in Texas in the early 60s, she and a group of her running mates would site at the back of the bus in defiance of the prevailing rules stating ‘blacks to the back’. Rather than dining in ‘Whites Only’ restaurants, she and her team mates would ‘brown bag’ it. She says that she wanted to go to a Christian school, so attending Seattle Pacific University was the obvious choice for her.

Attending SPU turned out to be a great choice for Doris. SPU’s head coach at the time, Ken Foreman, founded the Falcon Track Club in 1955, the forerunner to today’s women’s varsity. Under Foreman’s direction, Doris set two American records before graduating in 1964. Her career as a runner did not end with graduation. She was named to the U.S. Olympic team in 1968 and 1972. She won the silver medal (800m) at the Pan American Games in 1967 and 1971. During her prime running years, she won 14 national titles, and set a world record in the 440m, 800m, 1 mile and 3000m. As if not to falter, she won the U.S. Masters cross country title in 1989.

Passing her knowledge and passion on to the next generation, she continued to coach at the national level, including the 1984 and 1988 Olympic Games, as well as the ’87 and ’90 World Championships. Her achievements on and off the track are many: First female to be elected to the prestigious IAAF Cross country and Road Race Committee, head coach of the U.S Ekiden Cup contingent in Japan and Chief of Mission for the U.S. cross country team at the world championships in South Africa.

As if all this isn’t enough, this co-founder of the Falcon Running Camp is still out there today coaching and mentoring young runners attending the 2015 Falcon Running Camp at Camp Casey. Whether it’s during the formal talk she gave to the attendees, leading drills, or simply giving some one-on-one advice, Doris’s mark  is evident. It’s the kind of presence that comes from a long unwavering passion.

What makes the Falcon Running Camp so special? It’s the people like Doris who share their experience and expertise so freely. This article focused on Doris Brown Heritage, but she is one of many accomplished coaches and trainers involved in this, the longest running camp in the country.

By Richard 29 Aug, 2015

As children we’ve all looked up to the night sky and been overwhelmed when it’s clear enough to see the Milky Way. Some of us have even gone a step further. Going beyond being able to pick out the Big and Little Dipper, we learned about some of the constellations. Dr. Douglas Downing, an associate professor of economics in the School of Business, Government, and Economics at SPU, has taken that childhood experience to an all new level. He teaches an Astronomy class at SPU because it’s fun. Anyone who has had the pleasure of meeting him agrees he is passionate about astronomy!

As an instructor, he provides his students the opportunity to travel to Camp Casey for some hands-on viewing of the moon, nebulae, and constellations. Why Camp Casey? Most groups that Camp Casey hosts seek out the quiet solitude. Professor Downing and his students find the spot perfect for night sky viewing, far away from the city lights and other light pollution.

While spring is the best time to view Saturn and its rings, it’s always a great time to view the Sea of Tranquility on the Moon or Jupiter and three of its four moons. A 25” Obsession telescope is housed year-round at Camp Casey, so it’s always ready for Professor Downing and other SPU faculty to roll out and use while they visit.   This telescope contains a Newtonian reflector and a Dobsonian mount. It combines great optics for viewing and portability. The main eyepiece is a Televue Panoptic 35 mm, providing a magnification of 3175/35 = 90.7 power.

Students have the opportunity to not just view the night sky through the telescope, but also to set up and align the telescope. Can you imagine how different the experience is between reviewing images on a laptop to looking directly through this powerful telescope?

The Camp Casey staff make a point to let guests know if Dr. Downing is planning to pull out the telescope while they are here.  He is always open to stage an impromptu stargazing opportunity for anyone willing to look and learn. The telescope is one of several outdoor education opportunities available at the Camp Casey Conference Center. If you are looking for an outdoor education venue for your class or group, please contact us and we will gladly work with you to set up an experience you will not soon forget.

Some of the student’s images can be seen at Professor Downing’s page:

By Richard 01 May, 2015

Did you know that the Falcon Running Camp is the longest continuous program of its kind in the US? This July 20 – 25th, 150-200 runners will descend on Camp Casey Conference Center. Since 1960, Falcon Running Camp has given thousands of runners in middle school and high school the opportunity to work with expert coaches and elite athletes to learn about everything from mental and physical preparation to racing strategies.

Chris Reed is the director of Falcon Running Camp, and the newest face among SPU’s cross country coaching staff. A former distance standout at Western Oregon University, he continues to race post-collegiately in both cross country and track.

If you were searching for advice on what to look for, one of their first suggestions is to find out the age of the camp.  “The longer that it has been in operation, the more proof that they must be doing something right.” Check!

Other suggestions? Planned Runs – “trails should be safe, supervised by staff at critical places, varied, aesthetic and ability grouped.” At the Falcon Camp runners have two formal training sessions each day and an opportunity to run the wooded trails, fields, and beaches of Seattle Pacific University’s Camp Casey campus on Whidbey Island. The morning run is designed to build camaraderie; while the afternoon focuses on techniques and racing strategy. Check!

Planned Educational Activities – “sessions that teach you about all aspects of training with competent instructors.” Did you know that one of the instructors/coaches is Doris Brown Heritage, a two-time Olympian, a five-time world champion, and a former Olympic Coach? Apart from the quality of the instructors, runners spend their day in lecture and discussion sessions learning about schedule building, mental and physical preparation, injury prevention, nutrition, strength and flexibility training, motivation, cross-training, and race preparation. At the conclusion of each session, team members are encouraged to discuss what they have learned from the speakers and how they will apply those learnings during their upcoming season. Check!

And while certainly not last on their 10 point check list, they include Planned Recreational and Team building Activities – “activities with supervision that are fun and build a sense of team.”   One thing our returning visitors to Camp Casey routinely tell us is how the experience keeps them coming back. Campers are housed in dorm-style facilities with either two-person rooms or team-space options. Meals are shared at the Mess Hall. And campers have access to the gym, the auditorium with its game rooms, the fields and the pool. And what camping experience doesn’t end with a nightly bonfire!

Registration for the 2015 Falcon Running Camp – July 19 -24, 2015 is open now! Visit   to register today!

Perhaps a Running Camp wasn’t on your list of activities this summer. Whatever your need or interest, Camp Casey appeals to a broad spectrum of groups.

Be sure to visit the Falcon Running Camp Facebook page at

By Richard 03 Apr, 2015

Having received a superb education is just one of many benefits to being an alum of Seattle Pacific University.  SPU’s mission statement says it all: “engage the culture and change the world with the gospel.”  When founded in the late 1800’s by Free Methodist pioneers, they valued a non-sectarian approach to education.  Camp Casey shares an equally proud history and culture – founded in the early 1900s as Fort Casey for the U.S. Army and operated until the ‘50s when Seattle Pacific University became the property owner.  Today, SPU continues to welcome school groups, churches, nonprofit organizations, and outdoor education classes to this remarkable historical site.   Known as “Camp Casey” by its many returning visitors, Camp Casey Conference Center continues to offer groups the ideal place to reflect, excel, discover, and grow.

Wendy McDonald Aldrich, whose grandfather, Mendal Miller, was a professor at Seattle Pacific University from 1953-1975, spent her family vacations enjoying Camp Casey.  She says it’s always been a place where they came together as a family.  As an alum of SPU, she continues to enjoy the benefits of this same place she enjoyed while growing up.  Forty five years and 3 generations later, with family members spread across Washington and Oregon, they are still enjoying what the Camp has to offer.  Approximately 16 of them will be descending on Camp Casey this July, utilizing our campsites that are equipped with water and electricity, picnic tables, a fire ring, and most importantly men’s and women’s showers and restrooms.

Why do they keep returning? Wendy says it’s because there is so much to do for every age.  The “younger kids can ride bikes, play ball on the fields, go swimming or play on the beach.”  For the older members of the family – they can enjoy the camp sites and just relax.  And apparently for the remainder of the family members, there is quite a bit of competition and planned activities (based on the outfits involved).  Tennis anyone? Yes we have courts too!

Need more ideas – what about making a visit to Ft. Casey – the Batteries and Guns are still a great spot to explore for all ages.  The hiking in and around Ft. Casey and Camp Casey is phenomenal. And of course, our staff are always available to assist you in planning activities.

Seattle Pacific University alumni enjoy special discounts, so please be sure to ask us about those when you make your inquiry.

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