We have a "non-traditional" family. Will we be welcome there?

Most definitely yes! As Unitarian Universalists, we affirm all types of families. And just what the word "family" means is becoming more and more diverse. Blended families, single parent families, families with two mothers or two fathers, families where one (or both!) parent(s) is transgender, non-binary or queer -- all your paths in parenting are welcome and celebrated. In fact, one third of the families who attend or have attended in the past have a parent or child who is trans or non-binary.

We don't believe in God -- or at least a God that acts in our lives. How would this camp be relevant to our family values?

You may be surprised by how many families at this camp will share your values and religious ideas. There will be Atheist, Agnostic, Humanist, Pagan, Buddhist and Theist families -- and more! At Chalice Sparx family camp, we intentionally welcome families in an atmosphere that celebrates our many different paths to honoring truth. And any opportunity that Atheist, Agnostic, Humanist or Pagan families can feel free to be who they are is a good thing.

We actually think of ourselves more as spiritual than religious and don't attend a church. Why should we go to a religious-based family camp?

Unlike other religious-based camps for families, we honor diversity of thought when it comes to religious ideas. At this family camp, you will encounter families with a wide range of theological beliefs and spiritual paths.  As previously noted, there will be families who consider themselves to be Atheist, Agnostic or Humanist. There will be Pagan families who honor the spirits and energies of the world. There will be liberal Christian families who believe the teachings of Jesus are relevant today despite the radical political ideas espoused by the radical right. There will be families that believe the mindfulness which Buddhism teaches is the way to raise their children and families which honor their Jewish heritage while uplifting the Spirit of Life their own way. There will also be Pantheist families who uphold the amazing way life finds a way in our vast universe. And there will be families who really aren't sure what to think.

We are an intentional community of people with diverse religious and spiritual beliefs and we can affirm your right to raise your children with your personal beliefs. Connecting with a larger community also helps your children to see that you are "not the only ones."

My children are grown and out of the house. Why should I come to this camp?

Children and youth benefit from an intentional, safe community of all ages. Many of today's children are growing up at a distance from their biological grandparents and can really use the presence of older adults in their lives. Many older adults like bringing their grandchildren to camp whether or not the child's parent also comes along. This can be a great time for multigenerational bonding. Besides, this is a camp for families and families come in all shapes, sizes and flavors.

Who will be responsible for my children while we are at camp?

Parents and guardians are responsible at all times for the care and well-being of their children. We do not have camp counselors because this setting is all about families having time together. Therefore, it is up to parents and guardians to make sure they are aware of where their children are at all times. The retreat is a very kid-friendly environment, and the evening activities before 9 pm are designed for people of all ages.

Parents and guardians may make arrangements amongst themselves to designate an adult to accompany their children during a walk, a swim or other activities. These arrangements must be mutually agreed upon by the adults in advance in order to ensure the safety of all children and youth at camp. 

Is the environment safe for children?

Much of the camp experience takes place outdoors which brings with it the possibility of sunburn. Since many activities will take place in the wooded areas of Camp Friedenswald, there are also the possibilities of bug bites, insect stings and poison ivy. Parents are encouraged to bring along bug spray and ointment for stings -- and make a point of applying sunscreen to their children’s skin before outdoor programs.

If you should forget to bring along sunscreen or bug spray, we have a few extra for use. Parents and guardians should also check themselves and their children each night before bed to make sure no ticks have attempted to ride along.

There is a lake with a beach a short hike from Sycamore Lodge. Swimming and boating activities will only be allowed during the afternoon (3-5 pm) when a lifeguard is present. The lifeguard is certified in lifesaving by the American Red Cross and can perform CPR as well as lifesaving. The lifeguard is the sole authority when it comes to activities in or near the water. This is for the safety and well-being of everyone at camp.

What should we bring?

In addition to the items listed as What To Bring to Camp, parents and guardians with young children under the age of 5 are encouraged to bring a Pack-and-Play or portable bed rail so their children have a safe place to sleep. A nursery monitor can help any adults who want to be in the common area while the children being aware of any waking children or problems.

Booster seats or portable high-chairs are recommended for meal times. There is a limited supply of these available at the camp and may be available only on a first-come, first- serve reservation basis.

Favorite comfort objects and cuddle toys can help young children adapt to the different environment and familiar snacks (Goldfish crackers, Cheerios, etc) can help cover the gap between meal times. Fruit juice, graham crackers and other snack crackers are available at the camp store for purchase should you run out or need to supplement your own supply.

Refrigerators are available in Sycamore Lodge for the storage of milk, juice or meals you need to prepare for picky eaters or children who suffer from multiple food allergies.  However, if you plan to keep anything in the refrigerator, be sure to label it with your family’s name so no confusion results. Plates, cups and silverware are also available, but will need to be washed after use. There are no bottles or sippy cups available at the camp, so if your child requires those, you will need to bring your own.

Finally, make sure you pack extra sets of clothes for your children. Nature is messy and they will be encouraged to be a part of that messiness. In fact, a nightly shower or bath before pajamas and bedtime is recommended.

What should we NOT bring?

Leave strollers at home. We are in a lovely natural setting in the woods and there are few paved roads or paths for stroller use. We recommend bringing a backpack carrier or sling instead.

Please do not bring noisy, battery-operated toys. These will only disturb other campers and could cause problems with other children wishing to play with them.

There is no Wireless access at Sycamore Lodge so any electronics which rely upon wifi may not be functional. Since we will be actively encouraging children and youth to tune in to the natural environment, we suggest leaving portable computer gaming systems and tablets at home.

This camp sounds great, but I'm not sure that I can afford it. Are there any discounts?

There are several ways adults and families can reduce their cost of attending Chalice Sparx camp. If you volunteer your time to help us run the camp, dedicating approximately 2 hours per day in some capacity, then you will receive $100 off the cost of food. A limited amount of scholarship money is available to families and will be given out on the basis of need, but these funds go quickly, so register early.