If you are looking for a summer camp for your kids you likely won’t have to look long or travel far to find something of interest.
Our Kids, an online directory to camps, lists many camps band breaks them into categories such as: sports, education, art, day, overnight, boys, girls, families, religious.
Each category has sub-categories. For instance, sports camps are available for everything from baseball to cheerleading to sailing to wakeboarding.
There are specialized camps for cancer patients, the disabled, weight loss and the autistic.
There are old-fashioned camps where kids canoe, swim, hike and sing songs around the campfire.
Then there is a camp that doesn’t really fit into any of these categories and probably doesn’t show up on websites alongside the park district soccer camps and weeks in a tent with the scouts.
We’re talking Camp Kodiak Alaska, where Legionaries and lay Regnum Christi men offer boys and their dads two weeks of true adventure and hearty doses of the Catholic faith. This is the place for boys to be boys, men to be men, and both to find the bonds of manhood so often lacking in our culture.
Camp Kodiak began in 1996, when Fr. Kermit Syren, LC, had a dream of combining outdoor adventure with faith formation. Fr. Kermit grew up in Anchorage, Alaska, and wanted boys and their dads to experience together what he had enjoyed as a boy: the Catholic faith and the beauty of God’s natural creation.
Fr. Kermit’s dream was aided by the 40 acres he owned near Wasilla (30 miles from Anchorage) before joining religious life – and which he had donated to the Legion. It was the perfect place to base his dream.
That first year there were just six boys involved. Camp Director Ray Arsenault got involved and in 1998, they built a cabin on the property – and later a second cabin on a smaller property near Wrangell/St. Elias National Park in McCarthy.
While other camps offer various programs in everything from computer science to swimming, Camp Kodiak’s “special sauce” is a remarkable blend of faith, family, and fun.
Legionary priest and brothers are involved in all phases of the camp. There is daily Mass (even on a rafting trip or during inclement weather), Rosary, opportunities for confession and spiritual counseling and evening gospel reflections. Religious piety is observed.
“It’s the perfect combination of God and his creation,” Father Syren told the National Catholic Register in a recent article.
“I remember growing up in Alaska and being out in nature,” he recalled. “It’s about as primordial as it gets.”
Camp Kodiak isn’t a camp for men, boys or entire families. It is a camp where boys attend with their dads.
“Everything is done together,” camp director Arsenault explained. “We weave faith and fun adventure together – nobody get bored. Boys see their dads praying and that has an impact. Dads see their sons participating in exciting activities and that has an impact.
“We often see men who have been away from the sacraments or weak in their faith come back.”
Camp Kodiak isn’t about arts & crafts, video games or urban gardening. This camp’s activities are serious guy stuff: sea kayaking, glacier climbing, rafting, fishing, hiking, archery, exploring, and shooting. Survival and camping and wilderness first aid skills are taught. The exciting fun is carried out with an eye on safety – and the presence of the camp doctor. The camp has a full-time cook and local guides who lend a hand.
“The fishing is remarkable,” Arsenault said. “Imagine boys catching salmon and having their fish for dinner…along a river with the mountains in the background, with their dad.”
And, of course, the physical environment is part of the magic.
Camp Kodiak offers boys a true taste of the Alaskan wilderness. Breathtaking views of glaciers, mountains and wildlife, all in an environment untouched by commercial development, providing the perfect backdrop for approximately a two-week camp session for adventure-hungry boys.
Targeting and attracting boys of high integrity and potential, the camp makes a significant impact on its participants. Rubbing shoulders with world-class leaders, the boys learn powerful tools. And, as Kodiak alumni begin to establish alliances and develop relationships, these tools are reinforced throughout life.
Camp Kodiak’s activities are geared to produce human, intellectual, cultural, and spiritual formation in a setting of adventure.
Fr. Kermit explained that in today’s culture there is a crisis of fatherhood. Dads don’t know how to model manliness and have trouble connecting with their sons. The camp is a beautiful opportunity to alter that equation.
“Sadly, we live in a world where men don’t know how to be men,” Fr. Kermit said. “And as a result, boys don’t see the men in their lives being real men. That isn’t what happens at Camp Kodiak.”
This year’s camp runs from July 7-21, with 40 participants. But even though it is too late for the 2018 edition of the camp, it isn’t too early to be thinking about 2019. Camp Director Ray Arsenault will be happy to talk with you. And you can expect him to be enthusiastic.
Having been part of Camp Kodiak from the start, Ray has seen the benefits of the program in others and in his own family.
His son has participated in the camp four times: Fr. Todd Arsenault, LC. This year Ray will be taking his grandson to the camp for the fourth time. Ray beings an interesting – perhaps unique – perspective to the camp.
He and his family operate a dairy and saw mill on Prince Edward Island, Canada. That is at the far eastern side of North America. The camp – near Anchorage – is at the far western side of North America. The campers come from across the continent, so it is an international effort that brings together boys and their dads from an immense area.
Fr. Kermit and the other Legionaries are the glue that hold it all together. Ray explained: “Imagine you celebrate Mass on the shore of an unspoiled river. You raft down the river, stop and catch dinner, then enjoy a meal with the mountains in the distance. You are with other men and boys and you are all sensing the presence of God and his remarkable creation.
“Who doesn’t have faith at a moment like that?”