Camp provides old west feeling

Go past the entrance for Horseshoe Lake County Park down a private unpaved road with a variety of live animals fenced in on the right-hand side of the 80-acre plot.

After passing the horses grazing in the meadow, several old Western buildings are featured at the Miracle Ranch on Sidney Road on the outskirts of South Kitsap.Signage for the “Dixon County Bank,” “Shoo-Fly Hotel” and “Miracle Ranch Chamber of Commerce” is clustered together in a setting that gives the feel of a small town from the 1800s.

Doug Chase said Jack Geer, who founded the camp in 1960, had a specific image in mind when he created it.

"Our founder was looking at how to work with youths in the Seattle area," he said. "He settled on a Western-town look. We like the feeling of taking urban kids out of their environment and providing a rural feel."

Shannon Olsen, communications coordinator with Crista Ministries Family, which oversees camps at Miracle Ranch and Island Lake near Silverdale, said it simply is an opportunity to get youths outdoors with childhood obesity rates on the rise.Miracle Ranch features a variety of day and weeklong overnight camps that feature many outside activities. Those include canoeing on Horseshoe Lake, paintball, high ropes, archery, trail rides and a petting zoo that features goats, sheep and donkeys.

"We get them on horses and everything they're not used to doing," Chase said.Because of its connection with Crista Ministries Family, Chase said Christianity is a camp tenant."We definitely are presenting the message," Chase said. "We work a lot on the moral compass and relationships."

The summer camps and ones during the school year feature different rates. But "Operation Xtreme," which Chase said is open to 220 campers of active-duty military in fourth through sixth grades, is offered for free. That program runs from June 19-22.

"Nestled right here in a military community, we felt like we had to work with these kids," Chase said.

He said that military families often face challenges that others do not experience. One of those was highlighted on Miracle Ranch’s promotional pamphlet.

"My daughter sometimes feels bad that she gets upset at her dad for leaving,” a military mother was quoted in Miracle Ranch’s newsletter. “The chaplain and Operation Xtreme staff work together to help kids process these emotions. She told me recently about her feelings since her dad deployed, 'There is a little tear in my heart, mom.' As a mother, this breaks my heart and I am so thankful that she and other kids can go to summer camp and learn from one another and the staff on how to deal with these hard things in their lives."

Through May 24, Chase said 150 children were registered for the camp, which left 70 spots open. He said he hopes to grow that number in the future.

“It will be structured fairly similar to our other camps,” Chase said. “We may introduce some things that honor who they and their parents are.”

The other camps range in price from $349 for a fourth through sixth-grade camp to $649 for “Horse Xtravaganza.” There also are a variety of day camps that begin this month and run from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. in five-day increments for $186.

Chase said each activity is overseen by staff, which includes full-time interns. He said the latter are mentored in areas ranging from leadership to spiritual growth.

“We exist to transform lives,” he said.

For more information on Miracle Ranch camps, visit or call (877) 723-4373.

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