Oklahoma Summer Camp Caters To Non-Religious Kids
TULSA, Oklahoma - A Green Country camp that was in the center of a controversy over a fundraiser is teaching kids about science this week.
Organizers for Camp Quest were holding a fundraiser at a Broken Arrow restaurant in April, when the restaurant's owner learned it was a camp for non-religious kids and asked them to leave. Despite that dust up, dozens of children are spending the week outdoors with like-minded friends.
Haydn Kirkpatrick is 16 years old and said she's been waiting all year for this one week.
"It's the best time of my life," said 16-year-old Haydn Kirkpatrick.
She said it's the only time she can relax and not worry about being judged. Kirkpatrick is an atheist, something that she says doesn't come easy, living in Oklahoma.
"A lot of the times I feel like I can't tell people, because I feel like they won't be friends with me or their parents will think, 'Oh, I don't want them to hang out with that child. She's an atheist.' Because it tends to turn into a curse word," she said.
But for this week, Haydn and 48 other kids are surrounded by those who think like they do at Camp Quest.
"We cater to the humanist, freethinking, skeptic, atheist, agnostic side," said Camp Quest OK Director Mary Eversole.
Eversole said anyone can come, even those with religious beliefs, but everything is designed to stay religion-free.
Eversole wants to be clear there's no religion-bashing here.
The campers do what most campers do--there's canoeing, archery, and rappelling in the morning. In the afternoon, it's on to science. They build model rockets or bracelets made to look like strands of DNA.
There's also a biologist on hand to talk about wildlife. A baby tarantula was part of Tuesday's lesson.
The kids say the camp makes it easier to be non-religious in a religious world.
Will Phillips is 13 years old and also an atheist.
"This camp means a community and a free and open space for me to say anything that I'm thinking and not be judged for it," he said.
Kirkpatrick agrees. She said Camp Quest has changed her life and let her know it's okay to show the world who she really is.
"People help me realize it's okay to be myself," she said. "I can come out of my shell and people will accept me for who I am."
The camp costs around $500 for the week, but scholarships are available. They'll start taking reservations for next summer's camp in January.