“I didn’t know it was a Bible camp,” Quin Stouffer says about his first trip to Austin Circle Square Ranch in Manitoba. “But it was probably the most fun camp I’d ever been to.”

At age seven, Quin was a first-time camper at the Ranch, in a program for kids age 6-11. During the week-long program, kids have the opportunity to do activities from horseback riding, archery and crafts to zip-lining, wall-climbing and swimming. They also participate in daily Bible studies and campfire sessions where they can explore faith and hear staff members tell stories about following Jesus.

“I accepted Jesus my first summer at the Ranch,” Quin remembers, saying that hearing those stories helped him understand who Jesus is. But he says he didn’t have any kind of support system outside of camp to keep up with his faith after the summer. “When I was about 10, my mom converted to Islam, so we stopped going to church altogether,” he says. “So yeah, each year I’d sort of fall back and then recommit at camp again.” He acknowledges, “I didn’t really have a relationship with God at all.”

Love for Camp Lived Out
But he loved going to camp, so he returned to the Ranch every summer until he was 15. He then had the opportunity to be part of Circle Square’s Leaders-in-Training program (LIT), a two-to-four-week program that equips teenagers with skills to become future leaders.


Through the Leaders-in-Training program Quin (third from right) developed key leadership skills that serve him in his role today

“I took the LIT program at Austin and then stayed on as staff the rest of that summer. I came back every summer since then as a staff in the children’s program.” At only 19, Quin was in charge of program scheduling, managing staff and assisting with the kids. Eventually, Dan Ingram, Executive Director of the Ranch, suggested that he try the Leadership Experience and Discipleship program (LEAD) at another Inter-Varsity camp, Alberta Pioneer. It is an eight-month program for young adults age 18-25 that helps them practically apply their leadership skills.

“He’d been serving at the Ranch for a couple of years and was pretty committed to staying,” Dan says, “but we thought the best thing might be to have a more structured context where he could learn and be developed as a leader. We spent a lot of time in prayer, and, though he didn’t agree right away, eventually he did feel Alberta was where God was leading him.”

Stepping into Sacrifice
“I was pretty set against it for a while because I’d be moving far away and not making a lot of money,” Quin remembers. “I was focused on getting a job in the fall, but LEAD kept coming up over and over in my mind, and as I would pray, I just felt more and more like God was wanting me to do it.” He realized “it was kind of the only choice,” and signed up to be part of LEAD at Alberta Pioneer.

quin5“It was really stretching,” Quin says. “I’ve always been a person who likes to do things the same way, so moving to a totally new place where I don’t know anybody and don’t know the land made me rely on God more.” And while adjusting to a new place, Quin also had to adjust to new ways of leading.

“One of my main responsibilities in LEAD was to host guest groups for a weekend and kind of be the first person to meet them. I’d never done anything like that. It was never what I’d expect me to be doing.”

Growing through Experience
The experience has helped Quin grow in his interpersonal skills and his ability to take initiative, qualities that Ruth Lewis, Executive Director of Alberta Pioneer, took note of when deciding to offer Quin his current role as a Team Leader.

“He’s incredibly dependable,” Ruth says. “And he’s quite young, but he’s got a sort of wisdom and maturity to him. He’s really willing to learn and grow, and he’ll really do anything you ask him to.” Now, in addition to hosting groups and organizing work schedules, Quin also supervises new LEAD staff.

“Quin is steady,” Dan says. “He’s a strong leader who shows the kids in his programs amazing care.”

Passion for Camp Paid Forward
Now, at 21, Quin’s passion for camp is still growing. “It’s where I met God,” he says, “and it’s where I’ve seen my life and others’ lives change. It’s a really powerful, life-changing ministry, and I want others to experience what it’s like to be away from home, try new things and meet God there.”

This summer, Quin will return to Austin Circle Square Ranch to assist a new Program Director with their transition into his former role. Afterwards, he will return to his post as Team Leader at Alberta Pioneer.


Paddling a River for Ontario Pioneer

Originally posted on Ontario Pioneer Camp’s ‘On the Shores Blog’ – July 10, 2015.


On July 26, Ontario Pioneer Camp alumnus Ronn Bagge will begin a 100-mile canoe trip down the Missinaibi River between Peterbell and Mattice in Northern Ontario. Along the way, he’ll navigate 20 sets of rapids and portage 10 times. As he sets out on the trip, Ronn is issuing a challenge to other OPC Alumni – make a donation to OPC inspired by his paddling adventure. An anonymous donor has agreed to match each donation. All the funds will go to support general needs at the camp. To make your donation, click here.

At the end of the trip, Ronn will update the blog. Here are his thoughts on why he undertaking this challenge.

All aboard for OPC

In 1966, at the age of eight, I boarded a train in Chicago and set out for Ontario Pioneer Camp. The next year, my Dad and I flew in his small Cessna to the Muskoka Airport (CYQA) so I could return to OPC. I couldn’t wait to go back to Boys’ Camp and to get back in a canoe.

Ronn BaggCamp became a staple of my summers. I was a Counselor in Training (CIT) in 1973 under Cobber and learned how to lead a small group Bible Study as well as the importance of personal Quiet Time. That summer, our CIT canoe trip was led by Larry Offner, now OPC Alumni Director and a good friend.

Between 1974 and 1979 I was a camp chalet leader, learning spiritual and leadership lessons that remain with me to this day. OPC gave me skills and role models who made faith in Jesus Christ the most important thing in my life. The leaders who taught me remain role models today.

Important Lesson

While at OPC, I paddled on many canoe trips. One trip in particular stands out to me. I was 11 years old and we were paddling the Muskoka River when we ran into trouble. I still remember David Guest and I singing God is our Refuge to power us through the rough waters. I’ve carried that lesson with me ever since.

In 1998 I founded YQA Capital Management (named for the Muskoka Airport!), a Wheaton, Illinois company.

Ronn Bagge

Giving Back

This summer, I am taking time away from work to enjoy a challenging paddle and raise money for the camp that has meant so much to me through the years.

I’ll fly, once again, to the Muskoka Airport, looking down from the air on OPC, the former Bagge Farm and Port Sydney. Then I’ll start my canoe trip with the Missinaibi Headwaters Outfitters. We expect to reach Mattice by August 2.

My goal, in addition to paddling a river that drops 300 feet in elevation, is to raise funds for OPC. Gifts will honour the memory of Allan E. and Lois L. Bagge, who had the vision to first send me to Ontario Pioneer Camp.

To make a donation to the Ontario Pioneer Camp Ronn Bagge Challenge, click here.

Camp Partnership: Rapids, Rain, Rescues… Rejoicing

Reflections about the Alberta Camp Partnership from Fran Purvis, Campus Minister at the University of Regina.

Kyle D., Danielle and Andrew staying cheerful on their canoe trip.

Kyle D., Danielle and Andrew staying cheerful on their canoe trip.

As we embarked on our second day of paddling down the North Saskatchewan River, one of our students prayed “Lord, challenge us beyond what we can handle, so we can learn to trust you with everything.”   Well, the whole day we chuckled at this prayer, as one misadventure after another came our way: cold rain, rapids, a rescue of one of our boats, tire-deep mud, keys locked inside a vehicle, a broken Coleman stove… It was indeed a day of learning to rely on Jesus, not only for practical providence and care, but for good spirits and humour.

As part of our team training time, Kyle McLean (Campus Minister at U of Regina), myself, 2 staff from Alberta and our 8 students from U of Regina made our way down the river last weekend on a three day paddling trip, which was part of a camp-campus partnership we are participating in.

Camp Partnership team stopping for lunch on their canoe trip - Sheryll, Kyle, Danielle, Andrew, Hailey, Sarah, Fran, Andrew, Kelsey and Darian.

Camp Partnership team stopping for lunch on their canoe trip – Sheryll, Kyle, Danielle, Andrew, Hailey, Sarah, Fran, Andrew, Kelsey and Darian.

During our trip down-river, our team experienced the love and laughter of the Holy Spirit despite undesirable (and for over half the team, quite unfamiliar) circumstances. Moments like snuggling 12 people into a 4 person tent to read Narnia and tell stories, helping teammates stay warm, the glimpse of beautiful sun on the water, and just realizing that we have it in our will to choose cheer and belief, instead of misery, were powerful experiences of God’s care.

We are now into our 3rd week of the Camp Partnership at Alberta Pioneer Ranch Camp. Camp is a powerful space in the way that it provides both special and life changing “away” experiences, such as our canoe trip, but also because of the endless ordinary moments where students (and their staff!) encounter Jesus through service and community life.

Camp is hard work: it is a highly scheduled, relational and deeply communal environment. Every day we are requiring, asking for and are experiencing in profound ways the strength and joy of Jesus in the simple things like doing dishes, learning new skills, teaching canoeing or climbing to kids, or spending time with teammates by the water, away from the internal and external noise of our lives. There is something about camp in the way that it pushes you to grow, and lets you know Christ’s strength in your weakness. Camp is also fun! It is a place that grows deep and lasting friendships, and where pure joy is to be had.

I’m reminded often of the scripture from Isaiah 12:2 where the prophet declares that God is, “my strength and my song.” God is providing daily not only the bread we need to get by, but far more: the rich fare of relationships, joy and growth that make life delightful and good! Our days at camp have already been so full of growth and life, we’re excited and expectant for what Jesus has for us as we do life here the next 6 weeks!

Fran (second from left) and her students Sheryll, Kelsey and Hailey sitting around the fire on their canoe trip.

Fran (second from left) and her students Sheryll, Kelsey and Hailey sitting around the fire on their canoe trip.


Top 8 reasons to send your kids to summer camp

Are you scratching your head trying to find fun activities to keep your kids busy this summer? Or maybe you are looking for meaningful experiences for your kids where they will learn and grow. Why not send them to camp?


Here are the top 8 reasons you should send your kids to summer camp:

8. Your kids will grow in independence.

In a new environment, kids get to take risks and test their abilities in a supportive and safe place. They grow confidence in taking on challenges on their own.

7. Your kids will make new friends.

Kids not only make new friends at camp, they also learn how to relate to others who are different from them. They learn how to work through conflict with others in their cabin, how to encourage others in overcoming challenging activities, like sailing or horseback riding.

6. Your kids will try new activities.

It’s time to broaden their horizons! Some activities, like horse-back riding, canoeing, or mountain-biking, aren’t readily available in the city. Camp is a great place to try new activities with the help of certified and knowledgeable instructors.


5. Your kids will get outside and get active.

Instead of sitting with their electronic devices, kids can run around, get some fresh air, and develop healthy lifestyle habits. They also learn to appreciate the beauty of nature and all the little quirky creatures that they find outside.

4. Your kids will learn about themselves.

Their self-awareness grows as they have new experiences and are helped to reflect and look within. Camp is a safe environment for kids to learn to express their emotions and become sensitive to the feelings of others; camp gives kids space to grow their emotional intelligence.

3. Your kids will grow in their relationship with God.

Camp is a place where experiential learning happens, including in the realm of faith. Kids not only have a safe place where they can ask spiritual questions, they also get to see and experience faith values lived out every day at camp by their peers and leaders.

2. Your kids will develop leadership skills.

From learning to clean up a tent or cabin, to lining up to use the shower, to leading a silly song – these are the beginnings of leadership that can grow and mature over time. Camp develops leadership skills that will be useful in school and in the workplace as kids grow older.

1. Your kids will be mentored by older leaders.

Whether it’s a staff member, volunteer, or leader-in-training, your kids will be mentored by older leaders. When campers leave camp, they often rave about the leaders they had – older people who have valued them and helped them make the most of their time at camp.

There are nine spectacular Inter-Varsity Camps across Canada. Choose the one that best suits the kids in your life by visiting our camps.


Have you signed your kids up for camp this summer? What’s YOUR top reason for sending them to summer camp? Share with us in the comments below!

Faith Comes Alive At Camp For The Young & The Young At Heart

How did your faith come alive? What was your turning point?

Life-changing events have the potential to turn a young person’s life towards or away from faith. According to the Hemorrhaging Faith report, 50% of committed Christian young adults who went to camp said their faith came alive there. When young people experience God’s love through his people and learn to love and serve others, their faith comes alive.


Judy Kennedy (centre) with Arden Circle Square Ranch Director Dwayne Matson and his wife, Cindy, who serves as Office Administrator.

Take a look at Judy’s story. Summer camp was highly significant to Judy when she was a child. Along with growing in faith, she made lifelong friendships and developed skills that would later shape her vocation as a teacher and high school principal. 

Take a look at Joshua’s story. When people invested in him through Inter-Varsity’s camp and campus ministries, his outlook on life changed. “I wouldn’t still be a Christian today if it wasn’t for camp and campus ministry,” he says. “I would certainly say that my involvement in these places has saved my life.”

Take a look at Alanna’s story. She met a few at-risk youth when she was a cabin leader and heard God’s invitation to work with others like them. 
Read the stories of Judy, Joshua, and Alanna, whose life-changing experiences at camp fuel their lives of faith and service:

“Discipleship Through Community – Friends and mentors help a young leader step into risk” – Joshua Simmonds.


Joshua Simmonds (far right) has spent many summers working as staff at Ontario Pioneer Camp.

“Finding Vocation In The Wilderness – Young camp leader discovers a love for troubled teens” – Alanna Watton. 


Alanna Watton began to discover her vocation at Alberta Pioneer Camp.

Give the Gift of Camp this Christmas

‘Twas soon to be Christmas, when all through Inter-Varsity

Everyone was a-stirring, the camp folks especially.

We launched the camp websites, come register here!

We’re all hoping the camp season will soon be near.

With just over a month until Christmas, we’re already thinking ahead to camp next summer – canoe outtrips, horseback riding, and silly songs around the campfire. Why?

Camp registration for next summer is open on Monday, November 18, 2013 for Inter-Varsity’s nine camps across the country!

If you are considering whether to send your child to camp, it’s time to start doing some research into what kind of camp would be suitable for your kids. If you have teenage children who are looking to developing their leadership skills in a Leaders In Training program, now is the time to start putting together applications and preparing for interviews in the new year.

At camp, kids grow in independence, leadership skills, and their ability to relate well with other kids. What better way to spend a week or a few weeks in the summer than trying new activities outdoors, making new friends, and making memories for a lifetime? Click here to view our list of camps by province and region.

Gift Catelogue banner2

Inter-Varsity Camps’ Christmas Catalogue is here!

This Christmas, give the gift of camp to help support campers and staff in the upcoming year. Instead of a standard Christmas gift, why not give a gift that will help thousands of campers gain confidence, meet positive role models and grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ at one of our camps across the country? 

When you purchase a gift from Inter-Varsity Camps’ Gift Catalogue, you help make camp ministry possible. With gifts ranging from $25 to $1,500, you can provides gifts like Bibles, riding helmets and canoes. Click here to browse our gift catalogue and start your Christmas shopping!

The Best Present Ever: Caleb’s Summer Experience

Caleb Colby


What a summer! We wrestled on the Wibit, we sang in the Lodge, we sailed, we stubbed toes, and we did it together. Together with good friends; people who take us to the Nurse, who laugh at our bad jokes, who share their stories and who listen to ours. We were known, and we were loved.

In short, being at camp was the best present ever. Continue to Pacific Pioneer Camp’s blog to find out why camp was the best present ever for Caleb Colby.


Creativity in the Camp Kitchen

Alex Smith 02

This week, we are taking a look behind-the-scenes in the camp kitchen and meeting one of our great cooks, Alex Smith…

Even though chicken tikka masala with rice and naan bread is not typical camp food, Alex took a risk to prepare this meal for a dining hall full of hungry teenagers. The results were better than he expected, actually one of the best new recipes he has tried at camp.

Alex, head cook at the Clearwater Site at Ontario Pioneer Camp, one of Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship’s nine camps across Canada, is a 3rd year student at Tyndale University studying religious education and general ministry. He grew up going to a variety of camps. At the age of 16, he started working at Circle Square Ranch Severn Bridge. He helped out in the kitchen, led small groups, and was the camp videographer/photographer for five years before serving as head cook.

In 2011, Alex moved to Ontario Pioneer Camp to cook for the Leaders-in-Training and Woodland Challenge teen programs. “It can be very busy cooking for hungry teenagers, I have long hours! But they’re very appreciative that somebody is here who can provide them with food,” says Alex as he takes a break from the kitchen to talk to us.

He is the creative mastermind behind the kitchen counter, preparing three meals a day, seven days a week, for three weeks at a time for the teens on site. He takes care of everything from setting the menu, to filling out food orders, to making sure everyone gets fed, especially campers with special dietary needs and allergies. He has a pretty good grasp on how to gauge a group’s interest, what recipes they will like and which ones won’t work.

“Cooking at camp is a creative outlet for me,”  says Alex, “It’s a way that God can use me in the Christian camp context,”

Kids Benefit from Unplugging at Summer Camp

opc canoe

At camp, there are no plugs, no cords, no chargers, no cables and no screens. Campers and staff are asked to set aside their electronic devices so they can focus on all that camp has to offer. We spoke with Calvin Bennett, National Director of Inter-Varsity’s Camp Ministry (East), and asked him to share some of his thoughts about why kids benefit from unplugging at summer camp.

In the absence of mobile phones and video games, kids at camp benefit from being unplugged and start to find their life can be full of joy and many other things…

Face-time instead of Facebook. Instead of being glued to their screens with “friends” on social media platforms like Facebook, they have face-time with other campers while waiting in line at the tuck shop or goofing off in the dining hall. Without the trappings of texting, Twitter, and Instagram, campers are free to focus on building relationships with someone right in front of them. They learn how to meet new friends, have a conversation in person, and work through conflict with others.

Engagement instead of entertainment. Even in the quiet moments, while kids are waiting for something, they have learned to reach out for a device to stay entertained. Calvin says, “I see increasingly there isn’t room in people’s lives to hear from God. At camp, kids are given time and space to hear from God and think about things.” In quiet moments around a camp fire or during time with their chalet/cabins at night, without the opportunity to escape into virtual reality, campers have time to engage with the important questions of life.

Activity instead of apathy. The increasing use of entertainment revolving around screens means kids are adopting a sedentary lifestyle. Gone are the days where they ride their bikes around the block; kids are more likely to want to stay inside and resign to staring at a screen. At camp, instead of mind-numbing apathy, kids get active running around and being out in nature.

For parents who are concerned about being just a text message away from their children at camp, we encourage you to trust the staff to be in touch when necessary and to allow your kids the opportunity to work through the struggles they face at camp on their own. Kids gain confidence when they go through the process of problem-solving in a safe environment with mentors guiding the way.

As for the rest of the year when kids are in their regular routine, one of the things that Calvin has found helpful is to set limits on the amount of time and the times in the day when his family has “screen time.” Much like in a camp setting without technology, screen-free times allow space for conversation and community to form.

Other articles that might interest you about unplugging at camp:

“Sleepaway camp gives kids a tech break, and might even save your marriage”  (CNN)

“Summer camp: unplugged or unfair?” (Huffington Post)

“At tech-free camps, people pay hundreds to unplug” (NPR)

How to Prepare for Overnight Summer Camp

Going away for overnight camp for the first time might be pretty nerve-wrecking for you and your kids. Instead of looking forward to all the fun they’ll have jumping in lakes and learning to ride a horse, you’re losing sleep over what they’ll eat at camp and whether they will make any friends.

In order to calm some of your pre-camp jitters, we asked Andrea Richardson, camp director at Circle Square Ranch Brantford in Ontario, one of Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship’s nine camps across Canada, for some advice on how to prepare for overnight summer camps – for your young campers, your older campers, and for yourself as parents.

For younger campers:

1. Practice sleepovers.

Arrange for your child to sleep over at a relative’s house for one night, then try two or three nights. Make sure there is no parent contact with the child – this might be harder for you in the end! But it gives your child practice with the sleep-away experience in a more familiar setting before they get to camp.

2. Practice living out of a suitcase.

When your child is at camp, she will need to know where to put her dirty laundry and where to find her pajamas. Practicing with a suitcase at home helps her learn these skills before she is in a cabin full of other girls and their stuff.

3. Practice putting on bug spray and sunscreen.

It might be easy to overlook these simple tasks, but they are things that campers have to do several times a day at camp. Get easy-to-use bottles that enable kid-friendly application.

4. Talk about when to ask for help in resolving conflicts.

Some kids will struggle with poor peer dynamic all week and wait until they get home to talk about it. Encourage your child to talk to their cabin leader or counselor when they feel upset. Leaders are trained to help kids work through conflict and ensure that everyone is having a good time.

For older campers:

1. Help them prepare for the break from technology.

One of the great things about being away at camp is the chance to be outdoors and interact with other kids. But this might be an adjustment for kids who are hyper-connected on their electronic devices during the school year. Talk about the benefits they can gain when they take a break from their screens.

2. Remind them that rules at camp may be different than rules at home.

Your kids might be used to a certain bedtime or wake up time at home. When they are away at camp, they will have to live by the camp’s schedule and rules. In order to have a good time at camp, they need to learn to respect a new set of rules.

For parents: 

1. Stay positive when talking with your kids about camp.

Avoid statements like “I don’t know if you’ll make it” or “I think you’ll be homesick.” Instead, go for statements like “You’ll have such an adventure, I can’t wait for you to tell me all about it.”

2. If you kids call and say they’re feeling homesick…

On a first call home, parent shouldn’t offer to come and get the child – if they do, the kid will take them up on it. Once it’s on the table, it’s hard to take back. Instead, help your kids remember the positives of the day. Congratulate them on their successes so far. Assure them that everything at home is fine. Avoid statements like “I miss you so much too, I don’t know how I’ll last to Saturday.” Someone has to be sure things are going to be okay, and it’s going to have to be the parent.


Who knew that a week away at summer camp would create so many opportunities for learning – not only do kids get to learn how to paddle a canoe or take care of a horse, they also get to learn life-long skills like asking for help and taking care of their belongings.

If you haven’t signed your kids up for camp, there’s still time! Visit our camps’ websites for more information. Have a fun and safe summer!