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“Camping” — the word conjures up visions of pup tents and sleeping bags, campfires and hikes in the woods. However, in the College Place, Wash., camping is much more since the College Place Village Church began sponsoring Walla Walla Valley Camps as a community outreach in June 1998.

Beginning with three weeks of camp sessions that summer the program has expanded to offer summerlong athletic, science, water specialty, and day and residential camps lasting from one-day to one-week. For ages 7–19 the camps are co-sponsored by Walla Walla University (WWU) and volunteers in every area. Less than half the participants are part of Village Church. Sixty to 65 percent are from the Walla Walla community. 

The 2018 summer schedule of one-day and weeklong camps included spelunking in Hood River Valley, science, music, choral, clown computer and drama camps. Spelunking was enjoyed in Hood River Valley by, according to Dan Solis, College Place Church youth pastor and voice of experience, “people who aren’t afraid to get their clothes torn and dirty." Other camps included filmmaking at the WWU labs and water camps at Jubilee Lake and the Snake River.

The weeklong water camps provide canoeing, kayaking and wake-boarding. Residential camps for ages 8 and up are based at the ABC mountain retreat near Tollgate, Ore. Here the campers rent campgrounds and pitch their tents with the help of adult volunteers, which this year included Jason Worf, Village Church youth pastoral intern.

The university-based science camp encompasses much more than the familiar picture of test tubes in the chemical lab emitting clouds of vapor into the atmosphere. Featured for the first time this year, the “naked egg” — a title intriguing enough to make this reporter want to be a kid again — was supervised by Jim Cain, Bachelor of Science in Engineering (BSE) major from Walla Walla University and retired after 30 years with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Soaking a raw egg in vinegar for 24 hours dissolves the shell and leaves the egg whole and encased only in its membrane. Another 24-hour soak in fresh vinegar creates a translucent orb, squeezably soft and ready for more cool “eggsperiments.” This is only one of the projects during the week of science camp.

Walla Walla Valley camps is rooted in the idea that everyone is uniquely created by God. Therefore, each member of the human race should respect others who represent different races, cultures, genders, ethnicities and religious convictions. Members of the human family were created to learn, explore, experience adventure and pleasure, and interact productively with other members of the family of God.

Activities at the camp are shaped by a desire to encourage respect and compassion for others, nurture learning and a sense of personal growth, and create a sense of adventure. That adventuresome spirit is balanced by a self-discipline that fosters lifelong personal development. Christian principles based on biblical ideals outlined in books by Ellen G. White — Messages to Young People, Child Guidance and The Adventist Home — supply the framework for reaching these goals.

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