There’s No Place Like Camp

by Raina Baker, Camp Beausite Northwest Executive Director

When you think of summer camp, those of us that attended as kids have fond memories of archery, canoeing, s’mores around the campfire, arts & crafts, and making friends. The opportunity to spend a few weeks immersed in the awesomeness of camp life was just about as good as it could get.

Going to camp was a privilege for so many and you likely came home with a lot of laundry and singing songs at the top of your lungs—much to your parents’ dismay. The camp experience is a legacy and tradition in many American homes and is a part of the culture of the development of our youth in this country. Camping today is much the same but now comes with an incredible level of intentionality.

We still sing songs and do archery, and play games, but the industry of camp has developed into a world that isn’t just about s’mores or spending some time away from home. It is so much more than that. It is learning about loss, gaining independence, and giving opportunities to those that might not normally get a chance. There are programs now that are geared towards specific demographics and populations, doing their part to serve the underserved. Programs for inner city youth to get out into nature, youth whose parents are deployed, kids battling cancer, or serving people who are differently abled or who have special needs.

Snickers and Friends

In the late 80’s a group of parents of special needs children and Kiwanians here on the Olympic Peninsula came together to figure out how to give children who were not being accommodated at traditional camps the camp experience. In 1989 the first session of the Northwest Kiwanis camp was held; for the first few years, camp was held at various locations around the peninsula and was able to serve about 20-30 campers. In 1994 a lease agreement was struck with Jefferson County for a 55-acre parcel just off West Valley in Chimacum. The property provided an old homestead, a small cottage, and a lot of land that had dreams of supporting special needs campers and their families. For the next 20 years that dream became a reality. The Northwest Kiwanis Camp, supported by the incredible efforts of several local clubs, would come to fruition and provide the camp experience for 40-60 youth and also adults each summer, who are differently abled and who needed more support than a traditional camp could offer.

In 2010 the next chapter of this incredible camp would begin with the new naming of the camp, to Camp Beausite Northwest (CBNW) and the planned development of three phases of construction. Through the devoted efforts of the board of directors, local Kiwanis clubs, the camp staff, local foundations, and the community, the next nine years would see this dream turn into a reality. A bathhouse was constructed, camp buses were purchased, bunkhouses were built, and the lodge was expanded and remodeled with completion in May of 2019. CBNW now had a winterized year- Snickers and friends. round home and facility that could support campers of all ages and abilities, while simultaneously providing respite for their families and caregivers. The summer of 2019 would serve over 120 campers, a first in the history of CBNW.

Like so many organizations and businesses affected by the Covid outbreaks in 2020, CBNW shut all programs down and began the arduous challenge of finding funding to save this extraordinary organization that is only one of four in the state of Washington. The pandemic hit hard, but CBNW managed to make it through to offering five in-person weekend camps in the fall of 2021. While the pandemic continues, CBNW is determined to offer safe programs with a robust calendar in 2022. There are so many campers and their families who are desperate for a return to camp and the opportunity for respite, especially since many of their resources were cut, cancelled, or paused—it was time for CBNW to figure out how to serve campers once again.

Camp Beausite Northwest campers come from across the region and have varying levels of care needs along with a whole list of diagnoses that are supported and understood by the staff. It is the goal of CBNW to support as many campers as is possible while these incredible souls figure out how to make their Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and more, their superhero powers. CBNW has become a second home to the campers, and a trusted resource by their families, care- givers, and the state of Washington DSHS.

Around the campfire.

Meet Roger: he is 65 years old and has a moderate developmental delay diagnosis. He is one of over 120,000 people living in Washington State with devel- opmental delays (The Arc of Washington State, 2021 DDA Statistics Report). Roger has been deemed by the state that he is his own guardian. He lives alone and survives on his social security disability insurance, which is about $750 a month. Roger is the kindest soul, with loads of smiles and a bit of laughter, a little quiet and a little reserved. Roger needs help remembering to brush his teeth, and his food needs to be cut up small, as he can choke easily. Because Roger lives alone, he is not eligible for funding from the state to attend any programs geared towards him. He comes to camp on a camper scholarship one or two times a year. It is one of his only opportunities a year to leave the challenges of this life and come interact with friends and staff who become his family when he is at camp. When Roger arrives at camp, you can see the loneliness that he carries with him, he doesn’t need to speak about it, he doesn’t have the words, but he doesn’t need them, you can see it. By the end of camp, you can’t see it anymore. It is gone. That is what CBNW is all about.

Carrie is 33 years old and has a diagnosis of Down syndrome and is also on the autistic spectrum. Carrie lives with her mom and dad, and is an incredibly kindhearted woman, who loves to help out whenever she can. She is nonverbal but has loads to say. She needs help with dressing and reminders about staying hydrated and going to the bathroom. Carrie is eligible for respite hours through DSHS. Unfortunately, of the over 35,000 people eligible for state funded respite waivers, there are only 6,649 waivers awarded annually for $1200-$3600 per year (Washington State Department of Health, 2020 DDA Fact Sheet). Carrie’s parents work with a very limited income as mom can only work part time, as she spends much of her world caring for Carrie. They apply for camper scholarships to attend CBNW every year and hope for funding for a program or two that Carrie can attend and give mom and dad the respite that they need. Carrie has needed constant support and supervision since she was a toddler. Her parents have been willingly and lovingly doing this job for 33 years and will continue to do so for the rest of their lives and they wouldn’t change a thing. When they arrive at camp to drop Carrie off, you can see the tired and you can see the gratitude—they don’t need to say anything, you can just see it. That is what CBNW is all about.

Camper fees, facility rental fees, and grants help CBNW to achieve some of its mission, but the generosity from individual donors and community business sponsorships is at the core of how the mission is accomplished. In 2022 the goal is to raise $100,000 towards the campership fund and camper care staffing of programs—the two largest expenses. It truly takes a village to accomplish these goals, but these numbers are not insurmountable. Just 100 people with donations of $1000 each or 200 people with donations of $500, and camp has succeeded. CBNW has a new safe and secure, online giving platform that also allows for automatic withdrawal monthly giving. $20 a month can go a long way. All of these programs would not be possible without the support of our community and beyond.

The future of Camp Beausite Northwest is an incredibly bright one. The opportunity to support this demographic is one of true joy and dedicated service. CBNW hopes to be able to serve over 500 campers this year while supporting over 1500 family members and caregivers through respite. CBNW subsidizes camp costs by 35% for all campers, and then will look to provide partial and full camper scholarships to around 100 campers in 2022. As CBNW continues to grow, it is the mission of the orga- nization to be able to serve over 1000 campers a year in the future.

For more information about attending camp, renting camp, volunteering at camp, or donating to camp please contact us at