Our mission is to build a vibrant, diverse, and youth-centered community where we:
Welcome all with open arms
Nurture campers’ ability to both find themselves and be themselves
Create opportunities for campers to step into community leadership
Cultivate life-long connections to wild spaces and to each other
Our vision is
generations of campers who:
Believe in their own power and brilliance
Find their voice, their courage, their artistry,
and their work ethic
Contribute to and sustain their camp community
Transform the world
by joyfully carrying the values
of BYM Camps into the rest of their lives
Allowing connections to each other and our surroundings to flourish.
conflict resolution through deep listening
Acting on our inner voice, which is guided by truth and justice.
Playing, living and working together.
Valuing each other’s gifts and working to make camp available for all.
Giving support and care to our environment and people near us.
Role of the Fire Circle
At each of the BYM Camps, the Fire Circle is a sacred space, the center of spiritual and communal life. It is where campers and staff gather every day for 10-20 minutes of reflective stillness, and it is where most meaningful ceremonies are held. It is where many campers and staff learn to hear their inner voice, and where they find the courage to share their truth and wisdom with the community.
Modeled off of, and often referred to as, Quaker Meeting for Worship, campers and staff are invited to speak out of the silence as they are moved, to share a thought or a poem or a story or even a song. Many campers have not had prior experience with silence or stillness in this way, but most campers learn to appreciate and value the daily ritual.
It can take a while to settle into silence at the Fire Circle, and it can be intimidating at first, but new campers quickly realize that “silence” is not truly silent, especially in the woods. Birds and bugs and trees are always making noise if we listen, clouds and ants and shadows are always moving if we look. We are surrounded by friends, by fresh memories of joy and adventure. By the end of camp, the time flies by. Being together around the Fire Circle on a daily basis allows us to know, trust, and appreciate each other in a deeper way. It knits us together as a community.
Inclusivity & Equity
All of the BYM Camps are intentionally and explicitly values-based, and we incorporate the principles of Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) into every aspect of our program. We believe that a truly diverse camp community makes us stronger, wiser, and more resilient. We believe that the Quaker value of honoring the divine in every person compels us to not just build an environment that is welcoming, but to build one together, incorporating the voices and lived experiences of all campers and staff, and centering those that have been historically marginalized.
Our commitments to the BYM Camps community include:
- Doing the necessary legwork to recruit a genuinely diverse staff that is committed to JEDI values, and to recruit a genuinely diverse camper population that represents a broad range of lived experiences.
- Continuously refining and improving the JEDI training that staff receive at the start of the summer, and the support they receive throughout the summer.
- Investing in partnerships with youth-facing organizations throughout the mid-Atlantic region that have similar values around youth empowerment and experiential education.
- Building age-appropriate social and emotional curricula for campers that includes structured opportunities to build meaningful relationships and transform conflict across difference.
At BYM Camps we believe that people from diverse backgrounds can come together, build authentic friendships, have ridiculous amounts of fun, make life-long memories, all while living in a community where everyone is seen, heard, and valued. We believe that by living in a diverse community based on trust, empathy, and compassion, we can start to imagine a world built on the same values. At BYM Camps, these issues are real and tangible, not abstract and theoretical, and we will joyously and fiercely engage with them every day.
Food & Meals
Food is a central part of BYM Camps, another way in which we manifest our values and implement our program. Meals are an opportunity for campers to connect, for staff to see the state of the community, and for everyone to recharge with delicious food. Our kitchen managers and cooks prepare nutritious dishes that kids enjoy eating. Many campers discover a love of cooking, either helping in the kitchen or while on trail, and feel empowered to cook for themselves back at home. Either way, all campers become more appreciative eaters.
We provide healthy, high quality food for our campers. We regularly accommodate a variety of dietary needs such as omnivores, vegetarians, vegans and gluten-free diets. We are also able to provide for campers with various allergies.
BYM Camps runs programs at four different sites, each one a unique and beautiful ecosystem. We teach and practice the principles of Leave No Trace, both at camp and when out on wilderness adventures, and we generally seek to walk gently and live in sustainable, reciprocal relationship with the non-human systems and places that are all around us.
All of our construction and land management decisions are made with sustainability, stewardship, and restoration at their core. When we design and build new essential structures, be they cabins or bathhouses, we incorporate sustainable materials and design as much as possible. The new bathhouse at Catoctin is a shining example of our values made visible and tangible in the world.
For more information about initiatives involving sustainability, stewardship, and restoration, please feel free to contact the Camp Property Manager, David Hunter (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Gender Inclusive Camps
Here at BYM Camps, we work hard to create a vibrant, diverse, and youth-centered community that welcomes everyone with open arms. We seek to create an environment where campers can both find themselves and be themselves. We believe our camps are strengthened by genuine diversity of all kinds, and we commit to creating camps where people of any race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or economic status actively want to attend or work, where anyone and everyone feels at home.
Catoctin, Opequon, Shiloh, and Teen Adventure are gender-inclusive summer camps and communities where we support each community member to be in housing and social groupings that most align with their gender identity. BYM Camps is a community where campers and staff use the full spectrum of gender pronouns and identify with the full non-binary spectrum of gender.
At all of our camps, in age appropriate ways, we make space for exploring and discussing individual gender identities, while developing empathy, critical thinking, and other skills to advocate for those whose gender identities may differ from their own. The result is a meaningful opportunity to challenge male and female social constructs and prejudices, such as homophobia, transphobia, and misogyny.
Community Commitment – For all campers, families, staff, and volunteers
We recognize that each of us has our own lived experiences and identities. As members of this community, each of us commits to contributing to camp in a way that is safe and welcoming for all. We understand that learning and growing are part of the human experience, but we also understand that harmful words and behaviors cannot be accepted in a true space of belonging. As members of this community, we individually commit to being a positive contributor toward this culture of inclusion and respect.
For LGBTQIA+ campers, they often are victims of higher instances of bullying and harassment, and as a camping program, safety and belonging are our top priorities. While we are happy to share information regarding our gender-inclusive housing policies with campers and families, we are not willing to debate these practices as they relate back to our core mission and our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.