Youth Retreat

Go Camp Casey

By Richard 17 Jul, 2017

 Fort Casey State Park, just a short walk from Casey, provides additional history and outdoor education opportunities. With some prior coordination, groups can prearrange activities including:

1.      Fort Tour

· History of the fort
· The disappearing guns and how they work
· How the ammunition was loaded
· Fire control station
· Battery commanders station
· Mortar pits

2.      Lighthouse Tour
· Navigation
· The two lighthouses at Admiralty Inlet
· The two 4th order Fresnel lenses
· Traveling library box
· Wickie box
· History of the lighthouse
· Day in the life of a lighthouse keeper
· The keeper's log

3.      Forest Scavenger Hunt (Grades K-5)
Students will walk through the forest exploring the native and non-native plants. They will have a sheet of plant photos and names to match up. Students will discover how plants and animals of the forest make up the cycle of life.

4.      Food Waste, Worms, and Forest (Grades K-8)
Students will discover the amazing world of worms that eat our food waste in a worm bin at the compost demo site at Fort Casey State Park. They will explore how feeding the worms food waste can decrease our garbage and benefit our garden soils.

When planning your group’s retreat or camp, give some thought to taking short excursions to neighboring Fort Casey State Park. Our area is rich with nature and history, as well as knowledgeable staff and volunteers who are eager to help enrich your visit.

By Richard 15 May, 2017

What will your high school-aged children be doing this summer? If they are looking for a summer experience that will change their lives, consider Immerse: Seattle Pacific University’s Youth Discipleship Academy. The program leaders challenge students to “invest in your faith and discover your identity as one of both knowledge and action.”

Students, currently in grades nine through 11, will gather at SPU’s Camp Casey Conference Center July 9-15. Students will participate in a program that Daniel Vanderwarker, Immerse program manager, says is for students who wish to think more intellectually about their faith and wish to learn how to put their faith into action. SPU School of Theology professors will provide in-depth teaching, while well-trained discipleship leaders lead activities to discover and expand spiritual principles and practices of thought, prayer, meditation, prayer walking, and Bible reading.

The Immerse program web page states, “Students will begin to form their identity around a God who is present, vital, missional, and powerful, and they will address particular interdependent and mutual faith characteristics: spirituality, narrative, vocation, and community as elements of their relationships with God and each other.” Classes are four hours in length, delivered in a pair of two-hour sessions. There are four courses, each held on a different day:

  • Story explores the basic meta-narrative of Scripture with introductory hermeneutical practices.
  • Creed explores the basic theological beliefs of the church with some Christian history that illustrates the emergence of those beliefs.
  • Mission explores the many ways that God’s mission is embodied in the global and local church in all its cultural diversity, with some understanding of the demography of global Christianity.
  • Connect explores the theology and practice of spiritual disciplines, sacraments, and symbols garnered from the rich well of Christian history.

There will be plenty of time for peer groups and mentors to explore the beaches, forests, lighthouse, and Fort Casey. Free time options are plentiful at Casey and include frisbee, kite flying, soccer games, scavenger hunts, volleyball, hiking, and tag football.

By Richard 24 Mar, 2017

Admiralty Inlet Reserve, Crockett Lake,  Admiralty Head Lighthouse, and Fort Casey, neighbor Camp Casey. As if having a vast play field, long beaches, an outdoor pool, and historic buildings aren't enough, we are surrounded by other natural features and historic structures that offer additional opportunity to connect, learn, and discover.

Just a short five-minute walk along a wooded trail you will find the Admiralty Head Lighthouse and Fort Casey. The 1903 vintage lighthouse has its own interpretive center and gift shop. Visitors are welcome to climb the narrow stairway to the lantern room. Just beyond the lighthouse sits Fort Casey. The fort, constructed in the late 1800s, was equipped to defend the entrance to the Puget Sound up to the turn of the 20th Century and was used as a training facility until the mid-1940s. You can explore rare 10-inch disappearing and other mounting guns, which are on display in their original emplacements. Interpretive opportunities are available at both locations, as well as guided tours.

After connecting with the past, and learning more about the historical role our region played in maritime safety and national defense, move on to discover the abundance of plant and wildlife neighboring Crockett Lake and the Admiralty Inlet Reserve.

Crockett Lake is an open, shallow, estuarine lake, surrounded by marsh and grassland. This area is "one of the most productive birding areas in the Puget Sound Lowland" per the Seattle Audubon Society. Every year, groups like the Wild Youth service project come to Casey to learn about migratory birds. The Whidbey Island Audubon Society is always open to providing a volunteer as a guide to your groups birding adventure.

Another birding opportunity is hiking the 2.3 miles of maintained trails in the Admiralty Inlet Reserve. The 79 acres includes old-growth forest, a rare remnant prairie, and shoreline, as well the breathtaking views of Mount Baker, the Olympic Range, and the surrounding beaches and bluffs. Interpretive signs can be found all along the trail, identifying species and adding to the educational value of the hike. Groups staying at Casey can add a guided forest walk to their activities.

Whether it's outdoor education or adding an educational activity to enhance your team building program, Casey's unique location offers proximity to history and nature, as well as the instructional resources to guide your learning and discovery experience.

By Richard 13 Jan, 2017

It’s not your parents' camp anymore. There are no lessons in pitching a tent at this “camp,” just pitch-perfect practice. Although it’s thought that to become a proficient musician, one must spend countless hours practicing and rehearsing, students of music often attribute their success to teachers and mentors who are demanding and exacting. Successful directors like Brad Smith, music director at Eckstein Middle School, recognize the tremendous dedication required from students. Instruction and practice is essential to develop an orchestra worthy of recognition, but when directing a youth orchestra, much more is in play.

In addition to the standard hours of practice and rehearsals in the school’s classrooms, Eckstein Middle School’s music director takes his group to camp every year. Yes, while at camp the students take advantage of Casey’s numerous of meeting spaces to break out into smaller groups for instrument and skill level-specific instruction. The large meeting spaces also provide the benefit of bringing the entire orchestra together for rehearsals. But these are not the sole benefits of bringing the group to Casey. The special ingredients that are unique to the camp experience are the friendships built, sense of belonging developed, and community spirit fostered.

When Sandy Miller, parent of one of the students and one of this year’s camp chaperones, was asked what she has found most memorable about Camp Casey, she credited the large variety of meeting spaces for breakout sessions, collocated with lodging and meal service. She quickly added, “The Casey staff makes all the difference.” As an example, Barb, the food service provider, proactively sought out the chaperones to ask about any special considerations for managing the group during the meal service. This is a big help when chaperoning a large group of children.

There is no retreat or camp goal out of reach when combining the natural setting of Casey with the benefits of having a plenty of meeting facilities, group lodging, and healthy meal service. When you are looking to connect, learn, and discover, give Camp Casey a try.

By Richard 21 Dec, 2016
When asked what sets Camp Casey apart from other venues, we generally point out the scenic and historic location. Being surrounded by beach, forest, and wetlands helps sell the location, as does the vast open play field and swimming pool. What often escapes us is that our meal service is quite notable, and is often singled out by our campers. Yes, we get the standard “our students and teachers had a remarkable time” and “the staff were always cheerfully professional,” but frequently it’s our meal service that gets the attention.

Just this past month, we received written feedback from the Mercer Island High School Jazz retreat leader who reminded us that we shouldn’t take the quality of our meal service for granted. The feedback read, “I did wish to emphasize how much we appreciated the food provided to us for the weekend. Barbara and her crew were outstanding. We have a very picky population and her menus were an overwhelmingly delicious treat for every single one of us. That is an amazing feat. We so appreciate that added (enormous) benefit for visiting Camp Casey.” It was the phrase “enormous benefit” that stood out. It reminded us that what we may see as just providing good service, is something that our campers see as essential to their camp experience.

From the very start of our discussion with a group requesting information or a proposal, we include the meal service discussion. Understanding the specific meal requirements is a key ingredient to their successful stay. Camp Casey is committed to providing nutritionally balanced meals, and we take great care to address those with special dietary needs. Part of our coordination with the group leader is identifying not just how many special meals need to be made available, but getting as detailed as matching the special meal to the specific individual by name. Not as easy as it sounds when you consider preparing meal service for a group of 60, but we understand it’s what it takes to get it right.

Wonder what our campers can expect for dinner? How about adobo pulled pork with jasmine rice, glazed carrots, cornbread, salad bar, fresh fruit, and chocolate chip cookies. It’s noteworthy to add that our meals are homemade. Barbara and Fred Bennett, owners of ShoNuff Foods who provide our meal service, have a long tradition of cooking with passion and love. Barbara, a 12-year Navy veteran (Culinary Specialist), learned her culinary craft from her grandmother at an early age. Fred, who has a degree in culinary arts from The Art Institute of Seattle, has worked in the restaurant business most of his adult life but credits his mother for his passion for cooking. ShoNuff Foods is deeply rooted in family tradition.

When planning your next retreat or camp, be sure to pay extra attention to your group’s expectations for meal service. In the feedback we receive from our campers, it’s the secret ingredient for an outstanding experience.
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 13 Jun, 2016

A group of 11 students and their teacher from a STEM school in Denver, Colorado, spent a cool evening around a campfire on the Camp Casey beach listening to Native American stories told by Lou LaBambard. A long-term resident of Whidbey Island, Lou has spent more than 50 years offering countless lessons in history, tradition, and culture as a Native American storyteller. If you've attended the Coupeville Water Festival anytime since its inception 25 years ago, you may have had an opportunity to hear his storytelling.

With a backdrop of the beach and a setting sun, LaBombard tells of how his Delaware mother, Seneca/Mohawk father, and his grandmother carried him in a cradle-board during Pow Wows, and how he listened to tribal elders and storytellers of many tribal nations.   He shared how Native Americans use these oral traditions instead of the written language to document their history. But more than that, they use these stories to teach proper behaviors, norms, and values to their children.

The students had a chance to hear the story of two Pueblo children and a dragonfly that teach us the lessons of not wasting food or resources. They hear the story of a small mouse who made his way to the top of a mountain and along the way met a bison and a wolf, sacrificed his eyesight, and eventually morphed into a golden eagle. The lesson of the mouse is that the purpose of life is to be selfless and of service to others. He also speaks on the spiritual beliefs of several Native American nations. The Navajos believe in an evolution of the world from a cold mist that eventually gave form from water. The Iroquois and Algonquin’s beliefs are more similar to the book of Genesis.

Through storytelling, Native American tribes share, preserve, and pay tribute to their early beginnings, so future generations can continue their legacy. Camp Casey makes experiencing this rich tradition available to groups as part of their programming. Groups visiting Camp Casey can add Native American storytelling by Lou LaBambard  to their outdoor education program or as part of their retreat agenda. Whatever your motivation, you are most likely to come away from this experience enriched and with a new appreciation of Native American culture.

Professor Lou LaBombard has taught at Skagit Valley College on the Whidbey campus for more than 21 years. His areas of expertise include anthropology, sociology, Native American studies, and ethnic studies. He has worked in archaeology and ethnology on Whidbey and elsewhere for more than 35 years. Lou has lectured for many groups as a professional, international teller of Native American oral traditions, and has been a head singer and traditional dancer, "whip man" and judge at pow wows around the country. Prior to joining Skagit Valley College, he was chair of the Social Sciences Department. of Navajo College, Tsaille, Arizona. His family has resided in this area for 22 years.

By Richard 19 Feb, 2015

If you were to define “heritage” you’d find: Something that is passed down from preceding generations; a tradition. One of the most common themes we hear from groups on why they choose to come to Camp Casey is to get away from the distractions of everyday life. How do you create a heritage for your children that involves something more than computer games or television? Well, our suggestion involves getting them outdoors.

There are many health benefits associated with why kids should play outside. Debi Huang, a writer from Go Explore Nature blog notices the benefits of playing outside in her own kids: "The difference I see is both of my children have a high attention span comparatively speaking, and … (they want to investigate things), where other kids might just sit back." Alyssa Ross from KaBOOM, says that outside activities promote social skills. She believes getting kids outside and having unstructured play promotes a wide range of skills. "On a playground not everyone gets to go down the slide first. Going to a playground with your kids is not just about running around and being active, but it's also about learning social skills … through play."

Getting your children outside can be pretty simple. This past month was the 17th annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC). Aside from a pair of binoculars, not much else is needed for this activity.

Lastly, a Scavenger hunt is a great way to get kids interested in nature.  A few ideas for your "hunt":
• Magnifying glasses
• Camera
• Hand sanitizer
• Sunscreen
• Crayons and notepad
• Water and a snack
Lastly, a Scavenger hunt is a great way to get kids interested in a nature. A few ideas for your “hunt”:
• a feather
• a bird’s nest
• a maple seed whirligig
• a red leaf, a green leaf and a yellow leaf
• moss
• a pinecone
• a slug or snail
• a frog
• something a raccoon would like to eat
• a flying insect
• a crawling insect
• animal tracks
• a snake or a worm
• a squirrel
• a flower
• a mushroom

Just remember, including a deer on your list would be cheating!

Need help organizing your outing? Our Youth Outdoor Education Package is popular. This package offers 3 days and 2 nights of lodging and at least 7 meals. It gives young people the opportunity to connect with nature through a variety of planned outdoor education activities. They will also engage with the fascinating history of the region while sleeping in Camp Casey’s historic barracks and exploring Fort Casey.

By Richard 15 Jan, 2015

Camp Casey has many groups that return to visit each year; and some like Crossroads Bible Church even created a video to advertise their program. Their tag line for this year’s retreat was: “Military base? Barracks? Mess Hall? Oh my! This fall camp has become a great time to get away, build fellowship, make tons of fun memories, and learn about living like Jesus.”

Crossroads Bible Church Junior High’s retreat this past November 7th - 9th included 80 students and staff members. While Kellan Peterson, Junior High Director, was a first timer, she states that the students look forward to their time there every year and my predecessors at the church have always run camp there.

Describing their Junior High goals, Crossroad’s state: “a student’s life can be confusing, stressful, fun, dramatic … all wrapped up into one… So many students today are in need of someone to show them how to live life. They look at adults for examples of how to go about life. We have the wonderful opportunity to help them do that by letting them be a part of our lives.” Kellan said “the kids loved that they could run around and play hide-and-go-seek at the fort and the ability to play football and other games on the open field during both the night and the day.”

So while it is part of a former Military base (Fort Casey) and they did stay in barracks - Kellan said the rooms were clean. They ate in a Mess Hall – where we can provide two meal options served in our newly remodeled Mess Hall. We also offer auditoriums, the largest of which seats 350. Among its many features, it has a built-in PA system, DVD/VCR player, mounted digital projector, electrically- operated screen, and upright piano. Our gym offers a three-quarter size basketball court upstairs and a game room with ping pong, foosball and pool table downstairs. We have three outdoor volleyball courts, multiple soccer fields and four outdoor full-size basketball courts. Crossroads mentioned that they took advantage of all of these with the great weather they had during their stay.

When have you ever seen the words awesome and barracks in the same sentence? We think you’ll find a similar experience at Camp Casey.

By Richard 31 Jul, 2014

With its rambling network of woodland and prairie trails, idyllic waterfront views and easy, comfortable accommodations, it is no wonder that Camp Casey Conference Center makes the perfect runners retreat. Donna Jornlin, head cross-country coach for Roosevelt High School, has been coming to Camp Casey Conference Center for running retreats since the 1970s and continues to bring her team for two retreats every summer.

“I bring the top 10 Varsity girls in June for a leadership camp and more intense training,” Jornlin said. “We rent the Alumni House, cook together, train, play games, walk the beach and explore the fort. The entire group comes in late August for running and socializing as the season begins.”

The Roosevelt team uses the Alumni House and barracks for accommodations and takes advantage of the gym and pool for recreation. They also use Camp Casey food service and enjoy the recent improvements to the mess hall and food offerings.

“The setting is extraordinary. I've always loved the bluff run, and the wildlife,” Jornlin said. “Before I began coaching, we'd come for New Year's and stay in the Firehouse, when my daughters were young. Casey holds a lot of great memories for me and I saw it as a place to do the same for my athletes.”

After a long run, there are evening campfires (with S’mores of course), swimming and ice cream. The team makes a ferry trip to Port Townsend for a run at Fort Worden. Casey’s close location and variety of activities has made it an exciting place for the student athletes to return to over the years.

“Several girls have been a couple times and really look forward to being there. They even got up at 7 a.m. our last morning so we could run the fort loop one last time!” Jornlin said. “The moms who chaperone also ask to return each year because it's so peaceful. A bit of history, combined with such a unique setting and a great place to run, make Casey a real treasure,” Jornlin said. “I'm happy to promote it and hope it never changes.”

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