Camps provide positive developmental environments for youth, fostering supportive relationships with adults and peers, and building key skills. While strengths vary, all camps have the potential to provide positive experiences foundational to practicing successful life skills.

Camper Videos


We receive numerous letters from our Foundation campers. Some of the campers attend our camps for several years, and find that each year provides them with additional physical and social skills, as well as enhanced self-confidence. Campers report that camp helped them to feel good about themselves, learn new things, to make friends, and work together in a spirit of cooperation. Perhaps most importantly, the natural setting of camp allowed campers to enjoy learning about the natural world.

Camp was the greatest experience I have ever had. The scenery at camp is amazing as it is located right at the bottom of the Red Creek Valley, it was also great how all the mountains and trees surround you every day.

Camp challenged me both physically and mentally as we hiked to the top of mountains, but the challenge was fun and rewarding. Camp helped me become a smarter and more helpful person; it also made us work together to achieve goals and that made me better at working together with other people. Camp is a very special place to me and I hope to go back next year for another life changing experience. Thank you so much for supporting my time there; I will never forget it.

My experiences at camp have had a profound effect on my life. They have changed my perspective, helped me overcome fears, and let me experience things that I would probably have not been able to if I had not attended. I have met people there that will not easily be forgotten and made friendships there that I hope will last a lifetime. The people I met influenced me in such positive ways that it changed my perspective on a greater scale, but in a positive and informative way. I hope to also be able to spread my views in such ways to positively influence people in their day to day lives. Camp has been nothing but a positive experience for me and I thank you all for making it possible for me to attend.

Thank You for the Experience of a Lifetime

The John Austin Cheley Foundation really is an amazing thing. This approaching summer I’ll have finished my senior year of high school and will hopefully participate at camp as a CILT. However, this would’ve never been possible without the aid of the Foundation. You have helped provide me with 3 incredible summer experiences at camp with which I’ve learned a lot about myself and grown into a better person.

At camp I’ve developed into a more social person. I used to keep to myself a lot…camp helped me open up, now I help others feel more at ease and open up. In addition, being at camp has helped me learn more about myself, how I felt about myself, how far could I push myself, and how satisfied I was with my life. The John Austin Cheley Foundation has done more for me than I can fully express.

All I can offer is this letter as a token of my appreciation but someday I hope that I will be able to provide another child the same opportunity the Foundation has provided me.

Alex T
Minneapolis MN
1st generation of Vietnam immigrants
Gold Key Recipient, camp 2006

At camp last summer, I learned that I should not be afraid to try new activities, even ones I think I cannot accomplish. Camp also taught me that I should get out and “do it!” — whatever it may be.

I have had severe growing pains for two years, requiring chiropractic care and the assistance of “Cho-pat strap,” or stuffed Velcro straps, around my knees. The treatment and the straps certainly helped me enjoy more rigorous activities at camp.

I was torn between longing to experience EVERYTHING and longing to stay out of pain as much as possible. I learned that I could do both! I started out slowly, participating in more conservative excursions, but by the third week of camp, I was on a three-day mountain biking trip, enjoying every moment (except the moments I felt I would die if I had to go up another hill … just kidding!).

My camp experience was a turning point for my athletic life. I learned at camp that I can be active and safe. I have decided to stay fit at home by going to the gym as often as possible and biking around the neighborhood!

Camp has helped me get out and experience new things, despite fear or uncertainty. Camp encouraged me to persevere and do things to the best of my ability. I know wherever I go, whatever I do, I have a gang back at camp that will cheer me on, hopefully for years to come!

Johanna V L

I had the best summer of my life. Camp to me means a place to express myself and to be anybody I want. I love everything about camp. This summer I tried mountain biking for the first time. I have to say that I hated it at first. I thought I was going to die! But I couldn’t believe how rewarding it was when I got to the top. The way back down was the best part. I never imagined going that fast on a bike. I even did the camp Challenge!

This past summer I learned that I can do anything if I really give it my all and set my mind to it. That will really come in handy my freshman year of high school. Thank you!

I would like to thank you in person, but I can’t. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to attend camp this summer. I enjoyed horseback riding, hiking, rock scrambling, campfires, team sports and, most of all, overnight backpack camp outs. I received an award for the most improved horseback rider. I had an awesome month. You learn to live with people you’ve never met; you eat, sleep and learn new things with them.

When my mother asked me if I was interested in going to camp I was extremely hesitant. She wanted me to spend a month with strangers in a place I had never been to or even heard of before. However, from the first moment I knew the summer would be one I would remember forever. I never knew I could do so many amazing things.

The activities were amazing; hiking an early morning hike and peaking the mountains, looking down at the snow covered mountains, the green valley and the bluest of blue lakes. I can’t describe the feeling of accomplishment. Another thing I did often was mountain biking. There were times in both of those trips where I did not believe I could pedal one more minute, but the girls and the counselors were right there with me cheering me on. The confidence that those girls gave to me is something I can’t put into words.

I think one of the best things about camp is the people there love you for you. I think the summer changed me. My goal for the summer was to experience new things. I definitely accomplished my goal. I peaked my first mountain, received my mountain biking patch, rock climbed, rode horses, and went river rafting. The other thing I did that helped me accomplish my goal was letting me be me, not putting on an act so that the girls would like me.

I couldn’t have done it without your help and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it. Because of you I had the best summer of my life.

Please allow me to express my heartfelt gratitude for the wonderful opportunities provided these past two summers, with my scholarships to camp. You have indeed accomplished your motto’s goal in providing me with Experiences of a Lifetime.

Having my first airplane ride, seeing the splendor of the Rocky Mountains, and all the new physical experiences such as learning to ride a horse, showed me there was so much to do and learn. I took the experiences and applied them to my school and personal life, raising my grades and level of participation in endeavors such as FFA (former Future Farmers of America), school choir and theater productions. I also returned here having lost much of my “baby fat” and was determined to stay active.

The receipt of a second scholarship amazed us all. Seeing distant friends, making new ones, bettering my camping and horsemanship skill, enjoying all that the beautiful countryside could provide, are just some things on a long list making for an Experience of a Lifetime. I have indeed had a taste of what is big and fine in American life and character. I am confident that these experiences cultivated my ability to act spontaneously in the right.

Once again, from my family and myself, Thank you.

Thank you for another wonderful year at camp! Like last summer, I challenged myself and achieved goals I didn’t think were possible.

As the first couple of days quickly disappeared, I had already started to be challenged. Even though the hikes were hard but rewarding and a blast, I was more excited and nervous for my first backpack! Like everyone was telling me, I had the best time and ended up going on the five-day backpack!

I learned so much about how to survive, cook, what you do in emergency situations, encounters with different animals and lots of other useful information. Although the weather was not on our side, that didn’t stop our group from having the best time.

Not only did I learn out of camp, but also every Sunday during Chapel. Every speaker had excellent motivating words to say. They helped me with leadership skills and the good qualities I want to portray.

I had a second exceedingly tremendous summer at camp.

I went to camp being so unsure of myself. I was scared to leave my family and afraid I wouldn’t like the experience. When I got there, all the counselors welcomed me.

I fell in love with the riding program at camp. The horses, wranglers, and trails made the rides most excellent. I learned that the beauty at camp cannot be captured only through pictures, drawings, or videos, but through memories and friendships. Words cannot explain the smiles camp brings to a newcomer.

The only thing I can say is thank you. Thank you for the laughs, the friends, the sisterhood, the new experiences camp brought to me. I definitely brought camp home with me in many ways.

The Code of Living that our group established the first few days in camp has carried over into my regular life and I try to live up to its principles every day. By doing so, I have become a more responsible and well-rounded young adult. The Code of Living has taught me to be kind to everyone and to treat everyone equally. As I grow and mature, I know that the code will continue to be part of my everyday life, and I will hopefully become an even friendlier and more well-rounded adult.

I also learned a few life lessons. For example, this year I learned that I could do anything I set my mind to, because of my own personal physical challenges and experiences. No challenges I have faced back at home could have taught me that, and I wouldn’t have learned it without camp. Camp is not only a place of fun and games, but a place to actually challenge yourself and learn little lessons that will last a lifetime.

Each year at camp I learn more and become a more mature young adult. Thank you again for a wonderful summer!

Zachary W

Many parents report that their children, upon their return from camp, demonstrate enhanced maturity, self-confidence, and social skills.

We believe that this experience afforded Kati a chance to grow and mature as a young woman independent from the safety net of her family. She had to find her own way to overcome obstacles and adversity with the support and companionship of her fellow campers and find her own voice in the process. We believe Kati learned the value of deferred gratification through her struggle to overcome obstacles on the trail and the sense of confidence and accomplishment that she felt after she had conquered her trials and fears. She learned the value of teamwork and responsibility through the group hiking and camping activities. She learned how to rely on herself when she needed to and she learned how to get along with many different personalities, enabling her to learn vital interpersonal skills and meet many new friends along the way.

I have literally been waiting all year to write this letter! I will somehow try to find the words to express my gratitude for what you have provided for Edward. I truly cannot thank you enough for your generosity. Edward has been able to attend Camp for the third summer in a row this year because you provided the means to get him there.

When he returned from camp last year, something inside him changed and it was so apparent to everyone who knows him. At my first parent teacher meeting last year, his teacher said she noticed it immediately. He was so confident and while he never let his learning disability get in his way, he really was taking charge of his education. He became such a model student that teachers were asking him to be in their classes!

Camp has shaped who Edward is today. At just 14 years old, he is a determined, strong, self-assured, adventurous and giving young man. You can see from our initial application that he wasn’t described that way. He was not confident, lacked a great deal of the self-esteem he now has and wouldn’t have been described as a leader. He has accomplished this goal. He is known at school as the Leave No Trace Behind, hiking and backpacking guru. He even taught a class last year! He studied Alaska last year in a class at school and is now on a backpacking trip covering 1400 miles.

This spring Edward applied and was accepted to join the Arapahoe Rescue Patrol. He completed his basic training and is now a member of the only youth-lead search and rescue organization in the country (possibly the world). I am positive that he wouldn’t be volunteering for such an amazing service if it hadn’t been for his experiences at Camp.

I am so grateful to Camp and to the Foundation for the gift you have given my son. I hope you know just how much what you do changes the lives of a young person, which in turn changes the world. You have changed the path my son is on and while I don’t know where it will take him, I know it will be somewhere phenomenal!

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

For our son, this camping experience was a “life-changing” experience. He’s not only learned new skills for life, but he’s accepted new challenges. It has been a character building experience that will show results for a lifetime. The moment I saw him I could tell he was a “changed” young man. I feel he learned about friendship and bonds. He learned how to challenge himself. He’s learned about self reliance. Most importantly, he’s showing by example the relevance of a “code of ethics.”

Not only did he cultivate some very special friendships, he left camp with a renewed sense of self and greater confidence. We had the opportunity to join him during his final weekend at camp. It was obvious to us that he had had a profound life-changing experience. It was rather extraordinary for us to observe the bond he shared with his fellow campmates and staff. He seemed completely at ease with others, and appeared unusually comfortable with his emotions. It was as if he had somehow made peace with his true and natural self.

Camp was also a time of profound self-discovery for him. At the ripe young age of 13, he discovered the freedom and beauty of living in the moment, enjoying the here and now. The focus from “doing” to “being” has been a powerful revelation for him. It’s also apparent that he had many opportunities to fine tune his leadership skills. Please know how much your sponsorship has meant to us. We are forever grateful.

I write once again to thank you for allowing my son to experience a wonderful session at camp. He has expressed in letters to his family how the second time around was better for him because he knew what to expect and what was expected of him. Also through his letters I felt he had a sense of comfort for the wilderness, and that he has gained positive leadership skills.

The feedback I received from his counselors proved his inner strengths at camp had a positive effect on other campers. He has also mentioned several times to family how one day he would like to become a junior counselor and then a senior counselor at camp so he can give back what the experience has given to him.

Thank you for choosing my son Nigel for the camp scholarship. Nigel’s a great son, person and student. He works hard everyday and deserves to have a reward such as this. Camp brought out the best in Nigel and has taught him responsibility, self-confidence and leadership skills. Again, thanks!

Josh is 13 and had never been away from home for more than a week and we were both fearful this would be hard. Slowly the news trickled in and he was having a blast. He was falling in love with the horses and the mountains.

When we came to pick him up from camp we noticed he was in his element. His posture was better, his manners seemed better and he was not afraid to tell us that he loves us.

The drive home was very sad for Josh because he was leaving a once in a lifetime experience. He made friends and learned how to ride and care for horses. We began to see daily the life changes camp had made on Josh. There has not been a day since that we have not heard about or seen evidence of camp.

As a mother, I have been grateful and thrilled that my son had the privilege and opportunity to attend and participate in camp. It has been a life changing summer.

I would like to thank you for giving Alex the opportunity to attend camp. Without your funding help with the tuition, he would have never gotten the chance to experience the wonders he tells us about.

During Alex’s time at camp, he learned many new skills and also had a chance to improve on skills he already possessed. These include archery, riflery, horseback riding, river rafting, mountain climbing, etc. These new skills, combined with friendships he made, have led to an increase in Alex’s self-esteem and given him a great confidence in his own abilities. It has also helped develop his social skills, making him more outgoing and more accepting of the differences in individual people. The endeavors that my son has undergone will undoubtedly aid him through future points in his life.

I thank you for sharing the camp experience with him.

Camp was once again a great experience for my child, Corey. I sense a change in him from when he left to when he came back. Before he went to camp, I would have to tell him to do his chores – after he came back from camp, I didn’t have to tell him. He did them on his own.

We feel camp is like one big happy family. Thank your Foundation from myself and Corey for giving him this great opportunity and support.

A growing body of research in camp-based youth development suggests that summer camps play an important role in the development of young people. Results show that camp provides an opportunity for youth to grow socially, develop important life skills (including critical workforce-related skills), and experience nature, all in a fun, hands-on setting. 

RESEARCH STUDY #1 - American Camp Association

Between 2001 and 2004 the American Camp Association conducted national research with over 5000 families from 80 ACA-Accredited camps to determine the outcomes of the camp experience as expressed by parents and children. The results from this landmark study provide scientific evidence that camp – a unique educational institution – is a positive force in youth development. The camp experience can benefit children by increasing:


Confidence and Self-Esteem

Leadership Skills

Social Skills

Willingness to Try


Family Citizenship

RESEARCH STUDY #2 - Open Journal Of Occupational Therapy

In 2012 the Open Journal Of Occupational Therapy published the findings of a study entitled ‘Effects of a Summer Camp Experience on Factors of Resilience in At-Risk Youth’, which addressed the impact of a summer camp experience on at-risk middle school youth by exploring self-reported growth in skill development and resilience. Results showed statistically significant differences in the campers’ belief of a good future for themselves. Read more

RESEARCH STUDY #3 - Dr. Stephen Fine

In 2005 Dr. Stephen Fine conducted a study looking into contextual learning within the residential outdoor experience. Results revealed a high reported instance of learning transfer to later life situations that can be traced back to the learning experiences that took place at camp. This supports the literature on learning transfer as the learning contexts presented in the camp setting are amorphous, equally encompassing the personal, social and physical domains. The findings show that a unified learning context such as exists at residential summer camp has the capacity to successfully transfer to many later-life situations. Read more

RESEARCH STUDY #4 - Philliber Research Associates

In 2005 the Independent research firm, Philliber Research Associates, conducted the largest study of camper outcomes in the US. That research found that 96 percent of children said that camp helped them make new friends, and 92 percent of children found the people at camp helped them feel good about themselves. These statistics are just part of the story: Camp provides children with the opportunity to connect with nature, to participate in human-powered activities, and to benefit from personal and primary relationships. Many young people who attend camp experience an increase in their self-esteem and are able to establish a true sense of independence apart from their families. And perhaps most directly to the point, camp is an element in a child’s total development and complements the academic skills that are learned in school with experientially-based life skills.


– Disney and ABC President and CEO, Michael Eisner wrote a book entitled “Camp”, in which he explains how he learned much of his leadership and drive…by attending Summer Camp.


“Camp” written by Michael Eisner


Over the years, as a camper and a counselor, Disney CEO Michael Eisner absorbed the life lessons that come from sitting in the stern of a canoe or meeting around a campfire at night. With anecdotes from his time spent at Keewaydin and stories from his life in the upper echelons of American business that illustrate the camp’s continued influence, Eisner creates a touching and insightful portrait of his own coming-of-age, as well as a resounding declaration of summer camp as an invaluable national institution.

Excerpted from a speech given by Disney CEO Michael Eisner at the 2001 Tri-State Camping Conference, “Camp can give you the keys to success.”

I remember my very first canoe trip. I was terrified. We were venturing out into what seemed to be uncharted territory, perhaps never to be seen again. Every aspect of it was intimidating … but especially the idea that somehow our survival depended on us doing stuff and doing it together and doing it right. Of course, steadily, terror gave way to triumph, and I returned with an indescribable feeling of achievement. Many years later, I was a counselor helping to lead one of these expeditions.

But, oh, the lessons I learned. On these canoe trips, we could never survive
the first day if we didn’t practice teamwork, show initiative, handle adversity, listen well and, not least important, maintain a sense of humor.

May I repeat that list: practice teamwork, show initiative, handle adversity, listen well and maintain a sense of humor. I’m sure it will surprise no one in this room that these five attributes don’t just apply to canoe trips. They represent keys to success in one’s career. Indeed, they
are keys to success in life. And, you just can’t learn them spending your summers playing video games.

Simply consider the lessons I was taught by the campfire. Every time I was on fire detail, the situation and challenge was different. But, every time the rich reward was the same as we simply sat and enjoyed our consuming creation. And, there was one aspect in particular that never failed to intrigue me, and that was the process of seeing the single small flame of the match spread to the kindling and then the twigs and then the smaller branches and finally the larger logs. It didn’t dawn on me until years later, but this was the perfect metaphor for the creative process. In much the same way, the fragile spark of an idea can spread to become a great work of art or a movie or a political movement or an automobile or a Space Shuttle or a new communications technology. But, these blazing achievements can only happen if the initial idea is cared for, protected, and nurtured until it is ready to spread.

Years later, I found myself running a network television division and then a
movie studio and now an entire entertainment company. But, much of the success I’ve achieved can be traced to the direct and metaphorical lessons I learned in building those campfires. I can hardly think of an aspect of my life that wasn’t positively affected by my camping experience.


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