No Patches on Our Pants

Few would have guessed it back in 1947 — as a handful of Young Life staff and volunteers readied Star Ranch in Colorado Springs, Colo., for the first summer campers — that one day Young Life would have more than 20 camp properties welcoming tens of thousands of campers each year.
 
Much has changed since that first summer 56 years ago when campers were welcomed by a gun-flinging roadside bandit, sang great old hymns at club and went to sleep on military bunk beds. Although Star Ranch pales by today’s standards, for its day it was still a significant cut above the average Christian camp. Young Life founder Jim Rayburn was known for balking at any notion of Christians as second-class citizens with “patches on their pants.” He said: “We talk about the King of Kings; let’s act like He’s the one in charge! We’re gonna get the classiest camps in the country.”
 
A half-century later, those seemingly prophetic words  resonate in the hearts of anyone who has been a part of building Young Life camping into what it is today. As the future frontier continues to grow with the mission, here’s a look at some developments at four camps around the nation.
 
Breakawy Lodge
Gearhart, Oregon
For those in and around the Oregon North Coast area, Breakaway Lodge has long been part of the fabric of Young Life. But because of its unique location, it is also considered one of Young Life’s best-kept secrets. Unlike the remote locations of the ministry’s other camps, Breakaway Lodge is on a one-acre city lot in the heart of the scenic seaside town of Gearhart, Ore. The 66-bed lodge was built in the 1920s as a convent for nuns. Since Young Life acquired the property in 1969, the lodge has been a regional property where guests have enjoyed the informal “let yourself in and clean up when you leave” setting.
 
Because of its increasing popularity, Breakaway Lodge became a fully staffed property in January 2002. During the summer season, Breakaway hosts 14 sessions of WyldLife  camp. It is a fast-paced schedule — one session of middle school campers leaves at noon, and a new session arrives at 4 p.m. the same day. School-year occupancy at Breakway is also steady. The local Seaside High School Young Life uses the lodge for club during the school year. Additionally, nearly every weekend throughout the year is booked.
 
The property’s confined area promotes creative camping at its best. Program activities are uniquely coordinated within the community to include the local pool, bowling alley, beaches and parks in addition to the property’s sand volleyball pit, basketball court and landscaped back yard.
 
“Breakaway is an ‘all hands on deck’ kind of place where staff, leaders and kids probably interface more than at any other property simply because of our unique setting,” Property Manager Mark Booth said. “Kids can’t hide from leaders at Breakaway, which makes it not only a unique place for building relationships but also a great tool for developing confident and effective leaders.”
 
Lost Canyon
Williams, Arizona

Find Lost Canyon on a map, and it’s clear that this camp will become a hot spot in a cool place for kids. Located in forested Williams, Ariz., just west of Flagstaff, Lost Canyon is the first and only camp facility of its size and quality in Arizona. Bookings for the winter season are already filling the calendar.
 
In July, Lost Canyon welcomed its first-ever Young Life summer campers. “This is a significant time in history for us — it’s been a 40-year dream in the making,” said George Rehm, property manager at Lost Canyon.
 
Stu Graff served as summer camp speaker and shares that sentiment. “This dream started a long time ago, but in the last six years we’ve seen a lot of hard work and money go into this place. For all the people who have helped make it happen, seeing it all come to fruition this summer was really an unbelievable privilege.”
 
Although construction of the property is still in progress, the carefully planned layout of comfortable dorms, the awe-inspiring dining hall, great program activities and the beautiful natural setting were a perfect backdrop for the premier summer season. A Campaigners work week started the four-week season as kids and leaders made history readying the camp for future campers. One of the outreach camps welcomed YoungLives campers at a week uniquely designed for teenage moms and their children — an almost symbolic beginning of a legacy that will affect many generations to come.
 
Pinnacle Point
Brevard, North Carolina
Projections aim for the first campers to arrive in the summer of 2005. However, the master plan of the camp on paper is taking shape on the property.
 
Pinnacle Point is located on the Eastern Continental Divide in a spectacular area of the Blue Ridge Mountains surrounded by land preserves that boast more than 150 waterfalls. A local residential land developer named Jim Anthony dreamed of building a Christian camp someday. Anthony purchased land in Brevard, and then Anthony happened to meet Robert Wright, the former Southeastern properties coordinator. After learning about Young Life, Anthony realized he could fulfill his dream by helping Young Life, and he gave the land to the mission.
 
Construction of the dining hall at Pinnacle is showing exciting progress. Meanwhile, current priorities are the development of the potable water system and permit process for the waste water system. Camper dorm design will also begin soon.
 
The camp will serve a radius encompassing Knoxville, Tenn.; Charlotte, N.C.; Greenville, S.C.; and Atlanta, Ga. With current projections indicating a need for increased camper space in the Southeast by 2007, Pinnacle Point will be a strategic element in overall ministry development and growth.
 
Crooked Creek Ranch
Frasier, Colorado
Since its first summer in 1999, Crooked Creek has offered a variety of program activites to campers, from horsebackriding to Ridge Runners. This July, a 3,500-square foot pool and 700-square foot spa opened at Crooked Creek. The project, which cost more than $1 million, was made possible by gifts from two donors.Mark Blahnik, property manager at Crooked Creek, said the pool and spa enhance campers’ experience.
 
“The pool is a venue for program activities like Water Olympics and poolside meals,” he said. “It’s also a great gathering place for kids and leaders. Winter ski trips will make good use of the spa after a day on the slopes at Winter Park Resort.”
 
Still the classiest camps around
It’s clear that what started as a few carloads of kids arriving at Star Ranch 56 years ago has changed and grown to inspiring proportions. Final numbers won’t be calculated until later this year, but it is estimated that more than 45,000 teenagers experienced Young Life camping this past summer. The accommodations and amenities at Young Life camps may be undeniable hallmarks of the ministry, but it’s the unchanging message of Jesus Christ that makes camp an unforgettable experience.