In 1946, four men took 16 boys on a two-night camping trip up the Loyalsock Creek. On the second night, around a campfire, the boys began to share some concerns from their lives which they had never voiced before that night. The leaders were overwhelmed at the boys’ response, and they began to discuss the possibility of starting a boys’ camp ministry. They dreamed of a camp where the teaching of God’s word would be inserted into a daily camp experience.
That dream became a reality, and they gave it the name, Camp Susque. Initially using Camp Kline, the nearby Boy Scout facility, they eventually acquired the property in Trout Run in 1953 where the camp is located today. Over the decades, Camp Susque continually enlarged their programs offering various camps to boys and girls as well as wilderness trips and family camps. They expanded to year-round ministry like winter camps, homeschool classes, field trips for local schools, and volunteer work weekends as well as providing retreat experiences for churches, youth groups, and other educational organizations. Camp Susque profoundly impacted and blessed thousands of people over the past seventy years.
And then came COVID — and events scheduled for 2020 such as the Family Fellowship Weekend, the Susque Legacy Banquet, two hosted weddings, four rental retreats, 26 field trips, Young Explorers Camps, Boys and Girls Camps, Susque Family Camp, Classic Family Camp, Wilderness Adventure Treks — all fell to the COVID ax. In economic terms, Camp Susque suffered $420,000 in lost revenue — 75 percent of their annual budget.
Peter Swift, Camp Susque’s director, outlined how they tackled this seemingly insurmountable problem of keeping a camp alive without camps. Almost as soon as the restrictions were announced last March, Camp Susque worked with Lycoming County’s Surge Plan and UPMC to offer housing and food service to medical workers, first responders, and Pennsylvania State Police who needed to self-isolate or quarantine due to exposure risks or living situations, which continued on through to the fall.
They reached out to do more to help the local community. Camp Susque enjoys very good WiFi service, so they created drive-up WiFi in the parking lot for their residents of the region, which was especially important as schools shut down and many in that part of the county did not have the type of connectivity necessary for remote work and schooling. Speaking of schools, Camp Susque created a series of videos featuring the skills and knowledge gained from the field trip classes and sent them to school administrators for them to send out to their students. They produced seven videos that were reported to be well received.
As their traditional camps had to be cancelled, the staff had to get creative to find what could be done. They created lots of single-day events, everything from tube floating on the creek to archery, pottery, hiking and the like. They hosted a few family reunions as well as families who just wanted a place to camp out. Camp Susque even created a “Camp-in-a-Box,” which consisted of Susque activities that could be recreated at home, along with instructions and/or links to videos created to walk kids through the various crafts and activities. It even included a 10-day devotional made by their staff.
One of their most important initiatives was when schools were forced to close and go to hybrid learning. The creation of Susque Learning Sites located at eight sites served as many as 200 students from Williamsport’s primary schools — not just providing them space and connectivity, but loving and caring staff who created great programming for them throughout the day.
Camp Susque has stayed alive by responding to the needs of the local area. Now they could use our help. To hold summer camps this year, they have a desperate need for summer staff. Info can be found on their website: susque.org. Camp Susque has proved over the years that for both campers and staff, it can be a life changing experience.