If repeat customers are a sign of a successful business, Shiloh Quaker Camp certainly qualifies.
The outdoor camp on nearly 400 Madison County acres has a very high return rate for campers. Many of the children come back year after year and some of the staff, including the director, have spent several seasons there as campers.
Shiloh offers several sessions every summer that include a variety of outdoor activities. Canoeing, backpacking and technical rock climbing are important parts of the Shiloh experience. In addition, campers participate in service projects and arts and crafts, informal sports, dancing, drama and music.
The camp is run by BYM Camps, a Quaker organization that has been operating outdoor camps in the Mid-Atlantic region since 1923. Despite the Quaker affiliation, the camps are open to all and according to camp program manager Jane Megginson, only about 35 percent of the campers are from the Quaker faith. The organization bought Shiloh from the Church of the Brethren in 1992 and has been holding the summer residence outdoor camp for children ages 9-14 there since.
According to Megginson, campers come from all over the globe; however the majority are from Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania.
“We have a no phone or tech policy so the experience forces campers to experience the environment,” Megginson said. “In the past this was commonplace, but for kids today, being unhooked from technology is a different experience. We focus on backpacking, hiking, rock climbing and canoeing and older campers often take trips into the Shenandoah National Park. The camp is a traditional overnight outdoor camp. We have singing and games and arts and crafts as well as the outdoor activities.”
For counselor Asa Massie of Clifton Forge, the fun he had as a camper made him apply for a job at Shiloh.
“I’ve been coming back, I think this is my 10th summer here,” said Massie. “I came every summer as a camper and now I’m back to work here. I love it.”
Another staffer, Meredith Awalt of Baltimore, MD also attended Shiloh as a camper before coming back to work there.
“I started here as a camper,” said Awalt. “Now this is the fifth year on staff.”
Shiloh’s director, Hope Swank, grew up in the Washington D.C. area and attended Shiloh first as a camper then later as a counselor before returning to run the camp. Swank said organizing and operating the camp is really an ongoing process.
“Technically, it’s a seasonal position,” said Swank. “I have a lot of free time in the fall, but by January, we’re back hiring for next summer and getting applications for camp. In the spring we’re getting ready then camp runs from June to August.”
The camp offers one, two and four week sessions. A one-week session costs $950 per camper, a two-week session $1,550 and a four-week session is $3,100. The camp usually fills all spaces before the first session.
Megginson said very few locals attend Shiloh.
“We don’t have a lot of campers from the immediate area,” said Megginson. “In part that’s because we compete with 4-H camp, Camp Red Arrow and lots of specialty camps in the region. I also think a lot of kids from the immediate area are already more involved outdoors so hiking in the park isn’t such a big deal. There are also so many special camps, for music, horseback riding, computer skills; there is a camp for every sport and activity. I’m not sure how many of the locals really know we are here. Unless you are in the Hood Post Office when we send out or receive a box of letters, most people forget we’re here.”
For more information, visit https://bymcamps.org/programs/shiloh-quaker-camp.