Camp Chanco: The best camp and spiritual heart of Southern Virginia

12232895_1154684201227177_1553625585749502108_oCrackling fires. Chirping crickets. The sound of the wind in the sails of your boat and the water lapping the beach shore. The sound of an owl hooting overhead and the swish of the soaring bald eagle. The sound of cheers as your campsite encourages you on a new high element on the ropes course. The sound of laughter during skits and games. The sound of the of the Chanco Song and the Lord’s Prayer that wrap up a jam-packed day of fun.  These are just some of the sounds of camp.  And these sounds are all a part of the music that make Chanco “the spiritual heart of Southern Virginia”.  A one or two-week session at Camp Chanco is filled with this music and it is what many call their “second home”.  It is a place where young people grow in self-confidence and independence and where many find a new or deeper relationship with God.

Peter Bergstrom, retiring Executive Director of Episcopal Camps and Conference Centers, Inc. describes the powerful impact of camp programs on spiritual formation with the following words:

“I believe the camp experience is more important than ever for children today. Far too many children and teens are disconnected from both nature and caring community. Fewer and fewer are involved with any church, YMCA, Scouts, etc. where they can learn and incorporate positive, Christian values. Episcopal camps are one place where children and young people really learn to love God and one another. It is vital that our camps continue to flourish, and that they reach out to serve the entire community, not only Episcopalians, but also the vast number of children and families who are not affiliated with any church or religion.”

1001037_637736762921926_50286223_nOur Executive Director, Gareth Kalfas, shared these words in our January edition of the Chanco Chatter eNewsletter. A grandmother approached us at our Annual Council Chanco booth this past February expressing how much she appreciated Mr. Bergstrom’s words about how camps serve the entire community – not only Episcopalians, but also the “unchurched”. She then proceeded to share her story. Her children were raised in the Episcopal Church but she was dismayed that as grown adults they were not currently affiliated with any church. She sends her grandchildren to Chanco.  Her grandson came home from his first summer this past year raving about camp and sharing all kinds of fun stories of his new adventures and new friends. Then, he told his grandmother that he was very troubled that when it came time for chalet meetings at the end of the night, he did not know the Lord’s Prayer that most of the other campers seemed to be able to recite by heart. The grandmother was dismayed to hear this. Christmas Eve her grandchildren attended church with her. During the service, she was surprised to hear her grandson reciting the Lord’s Prayer by heart!  After the service, she asked him, “I heard you reciting the Lord’s Prayer by heart tonight! How did you learn that?” With a huge grin and great pride, he responded with, “First at Chanco….and then the internet!” Hearing the prayer at camp sparked an interest in him that he continued once home. He took the initiative to look up the Lord’s Prayer and then worked to memorize it completely on his own. This is a beautiful example of the spark that can happen at Chanco and that then continues well beyond the end of a one or two-week session.  Yes, our mission is to serve the community both within and outside of the Episcopal Church.

In addition to finding God in unique and different ways for our children, there are many kids who only through generous scholarships are able to have a Chanco experience. Last year, a number of children from both Boy’s Home of Virginia and ForKids received scholarships for camp. Special Projects Manager Rachel Newnam shares about the impact of Camp Chanco on youth from their program.DSC_0306

“As you all at Chanco on the James well know, camp is an incredible experience for any child. At ForKids, we know that for a homeless child, it’s more than that – it’s life changing. At camp, no one has to know that they have lived in a homeless shelter; they can just be kids. From sleepless nights spent in shelters to nights spent in cars and on the streets these campers have not had a fairy tale childhood.  Each year, our staff continue to be amazed at the newfound confidence, focus and determination the kids return from camp with. I wanted to let you know that because of you all, this year’s campers’ lives have been changed forever.” 

Why come to Chanco? Friends. Challenges. Adventure. Transformation. Confidence. Fun. Prayer. God. Family. Home. These are words often used to describe a Chanco experience. In the words of a 2015 Fourth Session Camper, “Thank you for always being there for me when even I wasn’t there for myself.  Thank you for showing me that love really is possible in the darkest of times. Thank you for giving me a family when mine couldn’t do it. Thank you for keeping me sane these past four years. Thank you for treating me like a human being. This place is the most wonderful patch of earth there ever was. And I’m proud to call this place my one true home.”

15 Camp Staff sillyCome join us this summer and make Chanco your second home. Register today while space is still available! With three sessions with wait lists last summer, you won’t want to wait to secure your spot in the session of your choice! Click here to see a video of all the fun you will have at Chanco. Click here for more information and easy on line registration.  Click here for a camp flier for yourself or to share with a friend or your parish. Questions? Contact Executive Director Gareth Kalfas at or 888-7CHANCO (888-724-2626).  We can’t wait to see you for the first time or the ninth time this summer on the banks of the James where “friends are friends forever”!

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