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2023 Summer Camps Series

Camp Spalding director says camps are about love

cChallenge activities build esteem.  Photo by Camp Spalding


Andy Sonneland, who has been director of Camp Spalding on Davis Lake in Northeast Washington for 33 years, recently surveyed 12 mostly denomination-related camps in the region.

He found that larger camps are growing larger, and the smaller ones are struggling, especially as their denominations are declining.

Camp Spalding relies 85 percent on income from usage and 15 percent on donors. In addition, it relies on donors for capital improvements. The camp offers nine weeks of sessions, eight for youth and one for an end-of-season family camp.

Offering many sessions means that at least one may fit a family's plans for the summer. It also means they rely on 39 college-aged staff or graduates for cabin counselors and to staff the waterfront, high ropes, crafts and programs.

Andy found in the survey that many camps rely on volunteers to run two to four church-related camp weeks and on churches, nonprofits and others renting the facilities through the rest of the summer and off-season.

"When I was a kid coming to Camp Spalding, the staff were all volunteers," he said.

"The challenge is to broaden the constituency to include more from the community to come to the camps. This year registration is on pace for another record year. Already both junior high, both high school camps and one elementary camp are sold out," he said.

Previously, he had used billboards and distributed postcards to schools, but realized there is currently not a need to advertise. The best promotion remains word-of-mouth with previous campers bringing friends.

"We try to make sure our website rises to the top in online searches for summer camps in the Spokane area," he said.

About 17 percent of its campers last summer were from churches in the Presbytery of the Inland Northwest, its founder, and the rest are from other churches and the community.

"Our constituency continues to expand well beyond its historical connections into the greater community and around the Northwest," he said, "providing Camp Spalding a welcome opportunity for expanded ministry and increased financial stability."

"Jesus' words—'I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing'—focus our prayers and our ministry goal for children and youth to come to know Jesus and grow to be disciples," Andy said.

"Discipleship begins with, is shaped by and flows from spending time daily with Jesus. That mission is thriving with a record 1,752 campers in 2022 encountering the life-changing presence of Jesus Christ during their week at Camp Spalding. We had sold-out camps at two-thirds of our sessions, with plans in the works to accommodate more of the over 200 kids on our waiting list," he said.

"Behind those numbers are countless stories of campers experiencing Jesus' transforming love," he said.

Andy added that Camp Spalding found it hard last year recruiting young men for the staff, but no problem recruiting its staff for 2023. That staff includes administrative staff, health staff, a videographer and three wranglers for the horse program.

Most of the mid-week times in September and May are full, as are most weekends through the year, when the site is used by churches and nonprofits.

Capital improvements include a dining deck with screened seating for up to 60, a first step in expanding capacity, along with replacing a 1950s cabin with a two-story duplex cabin to add 20 beds.

Waterfront projects include a new boathouse, beach pavilion and cascading patio to ease crowding at the beach.  

Last summer the camp added a new high ropes course.

The camp will receive a gift of 4.5 acres along Davis Lake and and just purchased an adjacent 0.6 acres, so the camp now owns one side of the lake.

"Camp Spalding is well-positioned for effective ministry in the years ahead," Andy said.

For information, call 447-4388 or visit

Copyright@ The Fig Tree, June 2023