Camp Susque has a unique story that God has been unfolding for generations.
In 1946, four men took 16 boys on a two-night camping trip up the Loyalsock Creek. On the second night, around a campfire, the boys began to share some concerns from their lives which they had never voiced before that night. The leaders were overwhelmed at the boys’ response, and they began to discuss the possibility of starting a boys camp ministry. They dreamed of a camp where the teaching of God’s word would be inserted into a daily camp experience. Their heart’s desire was to lead boys to Christ who were not part of a church. In December of 1946, the leaders met to define the foundational goals and values for the ministry. The core ideals they agreed upon were:
- Only God can open a boy’s heart.
- There should be no gimmicks or pressure in sharing the gospel, which could lead to false decisions.
- Communicating the character of God is of prime importance.
- The camp should be independent of any church tie in order to have all boys attend.
With the goal to start a program in August the following year (1947), the leaders began raising funds and locating a cabin to rent. An affirmation from God came when Merle Brush, a gracious donor, agreed to pay the rent. By the spring of 1947 twenty-three boys were interested in coming. Teaching outlines from the Bible were prepared, but there was no cabin to rent. The leaders met and decided that if no place could be found then the whole endeavor would be dropped. As they all stood to leave (with the thoughts of not continuing in mind) someone suggested renting a nearby Boy Scout facility, Camp Kline. So they contacted a Christian man named Ramon Palmer who was active in Boy Scouts. As it turned out, Camp Kline was available to rent in August 1947. So the men moved ahead, believing God had a larger vision for this boys camp. That summer, twenty-three boys attended for a ten day session. The leaders followed-up with the boys through a small newspaper called “Hi Mate!” They also held spring retreats for local boys.
The second summer, fifty boys attended. In 1949, Al Jackson wrote the articles of incorporation for “Susque Boys’ Club, Inc.” This name was chosen as opposed to a “religious name” with the goal reaching beyond the walls of the church. The papers were sealed early in 1950. In 1951, the Boy Scouts were reviving their program and Bob Dittmar began to look for a suitable alternative to Camp Kline. Bob’s cousin informed him that John Bower’s land along the Lycoming Creek was for sale. John Bower and his son had their own vision for a boys’ camp so they were very interested. Mr. Bower agreed to sell the land for $10,000 and he held part of the mortgage at 4.5%. On the day the advisory board met to decide on the purchase, there was $250 in the treasury. The property was purchased in 1953, and the following summer Camp Susque moved to its new location. The camp emblem was designed in 1953 by Bob Christenson and Bob Dittmar. With continued growth in both attendance and facilities, the push was on to introduce a girls’ camping program under the leadership of Leethe Neeper, Edna Fessler, Hazel Palmer, Esther Dittmar, and Ann Kirk in 1956. Logically, the name was soon condensed to “Camp Susque.”
Over the last several decades, Camp Susque has continued to grow. Summers are now filled with three weeks of Boys Camp, three weeks of Girls Camp, Wilderness Trips, Young Explorers Camp for younger youth, and two Family Camps. Camp Susque is also now a year-round ministry which provides retreat experiences for churches, youth groups, and other educational organizations. In addition, Susque holds numerous year-round programs like Winter Camps, homeschool classes, field trips for local schools and volunteer work weekends. Susque remains a vital evangelical ministry committed to proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ through His creation and His Word.
75 Years Later
In 2022, Camp Susque celebrated 75 years of God’s faithfulness. We’ve watched him move in the lives of kids, families, and our own staff. Check out our 75 year documentary. We’re excited to see how God works in the next 75!