(Photo Courtesy Camp Sealth) Campers from the 1920s heading out on an overnight hike.

(Photo Courtesy Camp Sealth) Campers from the 1920s heading out on an overnight hike.

Local summer camp celebrates 100 years

Camp Sealth hosts Centennial Celebration on Oct. 2

Camp Sealth, a summer camp located on the southwest shores of Vashon, will mark its 100th anniversary in a centennial celebration set to take place from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 2, at the camp. All are invited to attend.

Camp Sealth, which is part of Camp Fire Central Puget Sound, was established in 1920 as the first camp for girls in Washington state. In 1978, boys attended the camp for the first time.

The camp has undergone changes in its long history, but perhaps none so noticeable as its temporary closure in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Camp Sealth reopened for the 2021 summer season, serving nearly 1,900 children without a single case of COVID. Before that, the camp opened up as a childcare provider site during the time that Vashon schools were closed.

“It was really good to get back to what we feel like we knew best at camp, which is connecting with kids and connecting with nature,” said Carrie Lawson, the Summer Camp Director. “During the pandemic, we realized that kids really need experiences like this more than ever, so it felt really good to be able to provide that experience.”

At the Centennial event, visitors will be able to participate in activities such as a guided tour of Camp Sealth, a “Singing Sealth” song workshop, historical displays and more.

Rick Taylor, the executive director of Camp Sealth, sees the centennial as an opportunity for cross-generational learning and sharing amongst those who have attended the summer camp.

“We have a century’s worth of alumni now, and we view this as an opportunity to really connect some of the current more recent alumni with folks who were at the camp in the 1930s, and the 40s and the 50s,” said Taylor.

Lawson and Taylor both said that the centennial celebration is an opportunity for the Vashon community to celebrate and see what is happening at the camp.

“It’s not just our own centennial, but it’s also 100 years of partnership on the island as well,” said Lawson.

A new partnership between Vashon Island School District was announced in May when school board members voted to end a decades-long partnership with the Highline School District and Camp Waskowitz; the school’s new outdoor learning program for fifth-graders will now be held on-island, at Camp Sealth.

Lawson and Taylor both said they are now looking ahead to what comes next for Camp Sealth.

For Taylor, it is important to remain focused on the concept the camp was founded on: connecting youth and families to each other, as well as to nature.

“An affirmation that is as important as it was 100 years ago is just as important, if not more now, to be connecting with each other and with the outdoors,” said Taylor.

Lawson hopes that in the next 100 years, Camp Sealth will continue to build partnerships with the Vashon community.

“I think a lot of times, Camp Sealth has been viewed as kind of separate from the island, but the pandemic really showed us what the island can do when we’re faced with big challenges,” said Lawson. “We would love to see Camp Sealth build this relationship with other organizations and community members on the island, to continue to serve the kids and families on this island moving forward.”

Lawson also commented on how Camp Sealth is addressing racial justice in its programming.

“For us, it’s been how BIPOC [Black, Indigenous and People of Color] communities have been impacted and what we can do to continue to serve all communities moving forward,” said Lawson. “Whether that’s addressing issues of cultural appropriation, or lack of opportunities for BIPOC communities or underserved communities, that’s a huge focus for us moving forward.”

Camp Sealth is located at 14500 SW Camp Sealth Road. For additional information about the centennial celebration, visit campfireseattle.org/100years.

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