Sky Lake News Archive

2017 Summer Camp & Retreat Programs Registration Opens!

2017 Summer Camp & Retreat Programs Registration Opens!

Upper New York Camp & Retreat Ministries (CRM) is excited to announce that registration is now open for its 2017 Summer Camp & Retreat programs. Program details are available online and brochures were mailed this week! Brochures were sent to past participants and campers as well as all Upper New York Annual Conference churches.

“We are excited about the high quality and excellent variety of programs being offered this summer,” said Mike Huber, director of CRM. “The CRM team, in collaboration with hundreds of volunteers, has created programs specifically designed for spiritual growth, birth, and renewal.”

CRM offers programs and experiences for children, youth, families, and adults. Summer Camp programs/week(s) will be held at Aldersgate, Casowasco,  Sky Lake & Skye Farm. Retreat programs and events will be held at Asbury, and will include adult, family, and youth retreats.

Each of our centers offer online registration for most programs, making it easy to register for a favorite or to find a new one to attend. To view programs or to register, click HERE. To download a PDF of the brochure, click HERE.

For more information, contact us via e-mail at or toll free (855) 414 - 6400 or 315-364-8756.

Posted on February 14th by Mike Huber

Resource of the Week: Homesick and Happy

Resource of the Week: Homesick and Happy

Michael Thompson, PhD, draws upon his experiences as a father, school psychologist, and years of camping to write about something that everyone experiences at some point in their lives: homesickness.

In Homesick and Happy: How Time Away from Parents Can Help a Child Grow, Thompson helps parents and camp professionals see the value in helping individuals not only survive this common ailment, but to actually thrive from it. In short, to see homesickness in the bigger picture.

However, don’t let the title fool you—this book is about way more than homesickness. Rather Thompson carefully lays out the benefits of the camp experience for both campers and the parents that remain behind at home.

Look for it at your favorite book shop.
ISBN-13: 978-0-345-52492-8

Posted on May 24th by Matthew Williams

The Power of Letting Go

The Power of Letting Go

We’re currently in that time of year when schools and churches are starting to wind down for summer. But for those of us in the camping ministry, this is when we start to gear up for another awesome season of impacting the lives of young and old, neurotypical and differently abled individuals, first-timers and those who have been coming to camp longer than I’ve been alive! It doesn’t take much arm twisting for me to admit that this is my second-favorite time of year (summer camp season proper is my favorite, of course!)

As we focus on all our preparations, I like to keep one question in the forefront: Why?

At our core, we here at Sky Lake are intentional about providing a safe time and place for individuals to encounter community and God in a magnificent setting because we want to transform the world. Camp ministries have the amazing ability to teach individuals the valuable life skills of independence AND interdependence—not from a textbook but through experience. It still amazes me how much a simple activity like making ice cream from scratch can teach all of us: from coming to a consensus on what flavor to make; to keeping track of who’s next in line to crank; and finally, deciding how much of the finished product each one takes to ensure there’s enough for everyone. (It can also lead to some great discussions on how we ourselves are transformed through Christ.)

Recently when the proverbial “why?” was brought up in planning, we thought: “let’s ask some moms why they send their children to camp.” So a few weeks ago, we posted a link on our Facebook page inviting moms to participate in a quick survey. In that survey, we asked moms* three questions:
1) As a mom, what has been (or what do you anticipate will be) the hardest part about sending your child(ren) to camp for a week?
2) What ultimately helped you to make the decision to send your child(ren) to camp (or not)?
3) What’s one thing we here at Sky Lake can do to help alleviate some of your worries about sending your child(ren) to camp?

We received some great responses from some awesome moms (and I’m not just saying that because my own mom participated!) Reading through the responses the first time may or may not have brought a tear to my eye. Okay, I was moved by the responses of these thoughtful women. It’s always nice when others confirm your own beliefs—particularly when it comes to the power of camp.

Over the coming weeks I’ll be delving deeper into each of these three topics, but for now I wanted to share one specific response an anonymous mom gave to question #2:

“{I send my child to Sky Lake} to learn independence, make friends, and have fun.”

We raise a toasted marshmallow to that!

*Almost all studies of the camping industry conclude that moms ultimately make the decision as to whether a child attends camp or not. Some studies peg this at 85%, while others think it’s actually closer to 95%. So this is why we intentionally sought out moms for this survey.

Posted on May 24th by Matthew Williams

SNAP Program 2016

SNAP Program 2016

Ever wonder what you can do to be a leader at camp?

Every summer Sky Lake runs several weeks of active and meaningful Special Needs programs and we couldn’t do it without our Special Needs Assistant Personnel, or SNAPs, working with us.

SNAPs are older youth volunteers. Still considered as campers, SNAPs work alongside our counselling staff to gain leadership skills, make friendships that last for life, and spend time at camp doing the camp things they love!

This is your personal invitation to join us this summer as a SNAP. We’d love to have you.
What are the requirements to be a SNAP?
SNAPs must be 14 years of age or older and be available for our mandatory training event:
SNAP Training June 11-12 3pm-3pm
SNAPs register for training online just like they would for camp and select “SNAP Program” as their session of choice. Take a look at our online brochure for more information.

How many weeks can a SNAP be at camp?
After training is completed, SNAPs can return to camp for any or all special needs programs we offer during the summer at no additional charge. This summer we have 5 weeks of special needs sessions!

What is it like being a SNAP?
As a SNAP, you’ll spend quality time cruising tables for meals, rowing boats with campers at the waterfront, playing games on the patio, assisting campers on hikes and so much more. In the evenings you will have time to hang out with the other SNAPs and the SNAP Coordinator to do more of what you love about camp such as night time hikes, s’mores, and of course plan the latest SNAP skit for Talent Night.

I’d be happy to answer any questions you may have. Please don’t hesitate to email me at


Britny Wainwright
2016 Summer Program Coordinator

Posted on May 24th by Matthew Williams

Thank You Work Day 2016 Volunteers

Thank You Work Day 2016 Volunteers

Register Online Now!(Privacy Statement & Refund Policy)Over 50 volunteers arrived on Saturday, May 7th for Volunteer Work Day 2016 and managed to complete almost all the projects we had on the docket for the day! Thanks to these fantastic volunteers for helping to clear the roofs and undersides of cabins; freshen up flower beds and the trysts; assemble a GaGa Pit; install new towel dispensers; clean out a squirrel’s hoard of pinecones; and most importantly—for the wonderful fellowship!

Posted on May 10th by Matthew Williams

The Legend of Harvey the Hippo

The Legend of Harvey the Hippo

This article originally appeared in Upper New York Advocate, Vol. 8, Issue 2:

The legend of Harvey the Hippo – the unofficial mascot of Sky Lake – began with a song written by a summer staff member, Steve Hulslander, in the early 1970s. From the earliest days, countless campers have taken to this 4,618.5-pound hippo, who, according to the song, manages to consume 200 pounds of food every day.

In the early 2000s, the legend began to take physical shape when the Rev. Joyce Allen came across a delightful stuffed hippo created by her former parishioner at the Worcester UMC, Emma Gaylord, and procured it for Sky Lake. “The moment I saw that hippo, I just knew he belonged at Sky Lake,” said Rev. Allen.

After several years of spending time with campers, going on church visits, and taking part in a number of photo projects, original Harvey began to show some wear and tear. Fortunately, in 2013, the talented Brookye Keeney – who co-leads Creative Arts Week each summer at Sky Lake with her husband, the Rev. Nick Keeney – refurbished original Harvey and created two replicas, ensuring that the legend of Harvey the Hippo will continue to live on for generations to come.

Visit to watch a video created by volunteer and former camper, Greg Milunich, of campers singing “Harvey the Hippo” last summer.

Posted on May 10th by Matthew Williams

Strengthening Our Connection to God’s Creation

Strengthening Our Connection to God’s Creation

Thanks to Joan Newlon, Executive Assistant for Upper New York Camp and Retreat Ministries, for this update:

The Lakeside Nature Trail, to be named in honor of Jim Krager for his 45 years of ministry at Sky Lake, is getting some exciting upgrades thanks to generous donors. 

Thirty-one (31) interpretive panels and mounting posts have been purchased and placed. The first batch of signs were placed along the trail last autumn, and the second batch (which arrived over the winter) were put in place last week. These panels include a mix of educational information about native birds, animals, trees, and life cycles which will prove to be a real asset in teaching our campers and guests about God’s wonderful Creation.

Five benches have also been added to strategic spots along the trail, both for viewing and for resting. 

A trailhead sign honoring Jim, which will also highlight a map of the area around the lake, will be placed at the main entry of the trail prior to our Grand Opening on May 15th.

We are pleased and very grateful for David Ash, an Eagle Scout who rebuilt one of the bridges on the east shore and saved us much of the initial estimated cost.

Funds are still needed to refurbish the currently-accessible section of the trail in this first phase of the project. This part of the trail will be wide enough for wheelchairs and will consist of material which will make it easy for individuals with limited mobility to use the trail safely.  Our hope is to do the work of renovating this section “in-house” as soon as we have funds in hand, in order to reduce the cost of the labor. 

Make your gift today to help us continue to develop what will become a premiere walking trail around Sky Lake, and then join us for a small reception prior to our Open House event on May 15th.  A number of Upper New York’s Camp & Retreat Ministry staff members as well as Sky Lake staff will be present to express their appreciation; Jim Krager will also be present to officially cut the ribbon; and as a way of saying “thank you” to those who have given a financial gift to this project, we will open the trail so that you are formally the first walkers to enjoy the improvements we have been able to make.

Please plan on joining us at noon on the South Porch of Founders’ Lodge and let us thank you in person for what you have made possible. RSVP to Joan Newlon, Executive Assistant for CRM, by emailing or by calling 315-424-7878 ext. 309 to let us know that you will be joining us.

You may send a check made out to “UNYAC-Sky Lake Trail” to UNYAC-CRM, Attn: Joan Newlon, 324 University Ave., 3rd fl. Syracuse, NY 13210.  Or you can give onlinePlease be sure to note “Sky Lake Trail” in the box beside “Camp and Retreat Ministries.”

Thanks in advance for your generous support. We’re very much looking forward to seeing you on May 15th.

Donate to the Nature Trail Project

Posted on April 26th by Matthew Williams

A Different Kind of “Wired” Connection

A Different Kind of “Wired” Connection

Providing intentional opportunities for campers to play a leading role in building a supportive community is an integral component of most any camp experience, but especially here at Sky Lake. We make it a habit to continually dream of new ways to enhance this experience and estimate that we use approximately 47 pounds of scrap paper each year just jotting down ideas. (Okay, so we don’t really know for sure how much paper we actually use to document our hopes and dreams, but we know for sure that it’s A LOT!)

One of our long-standing dreams started to materialize in 2015 when we broke ground for a new low-ropes course. We began by inviting our friends over at Project Adventure to come visit, help provide focus for our dream, and scout out locations for the various elements we wanted to include. From that visit, we decided on three elements that Project Adventure would build in 2016 and a few elements that we were able to safely build ourselves in 2015.

The elements we currently offer are no more than a foot off the ground, but as Jenna Amberge (who counts Challenge Coordinator amongst her many duties as a year-round member of the Sky Lake team) puts it, “we look for that element of safety before a camper takes the first step step off the ground. It’s important for them to know they are fully supported.”

Safety holds a prominent position in all we do at camp and factored heavily into the placement of the course itself. Building it in a lightly used patch of woods off the Lakeside Trail near the East Shore means that we’re able to limit access to the elements while still allowing for easy access in the rare circumstance that emergency services are required. (So far, minor bug bites account for the majority of band-aids used from the dedicated first aid kit!) The placement of the course also meant that the crew from Project Adventure was able to spend less time getting their equipment to the site and dedicate more time to installing the Wild Woosey, the Team Triangle, and the Mohawk Walk. The time savings also partly factored into their being able to install a rare sixth segment to the Mohawk Walk challenge.

“Last year, campers were excited to use those first elements on the low-ropes course. Some were scared, but ended up loving the challenges and were able to come away with a positive feeling about how the experience helped them grow closer as a group,” says Jenna.

Anyone who has ever met her knows that Jenna is passionate about facilitating team building, so it will come as no surprise that she is really looking forward to campers getting to enjoy the newest additions—especially one of her all-time favorite challenges: the Mohawk Walk. “We take them to an area in the woods where we’ve created physical challenges for them to complete. [This natural setting] encourages them to think about how in using these elements, they have to work work with each other, have safe physical contact with other humans, and have to communicate—sometimes in very unique ways—in order to accomplish any challenge. You can’t do that looking at a screen or holding a phone! And they learn to rely on each other, which is what God wants for us to do.”

Our low-ropes course is also available for group bookings from May-September (weather permitting.) contact us

Posted on April 26th by Matthew Williams

Resource of the Week: Last Child in the Woods

Resource of the Week: Last Child in the Woods

Soon after reading Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder for the first time a few years ago, there was an incident in our camp garden. A group of elementary-age campers were helping to harvest some carrots. One camper in particular was totally overwhelmed to learn that these orange root vegetables grew in the ground and that after a quick rinse in the back sink of Chauncey Dining Hall he could eat one! (Incidentally, he loved that carrot.)

Louv is quick to point out that the “term [nature-deficit disorder] is by no means a medical diagnosis, but it does offer a way to think about the problem and the possibilities—for children, and for the rest of us as well.”  The pages that follow give voice to the importance of replacing screen time with intentional, unfettered time in the great outdoors. But the book isn’t just about the “why”, it also provides the “how”—the practical steps we adults can take to help encourage the youngsters in our lives to discover a whole new and extremely beneficial natural world first hand.

We fully admit that we have a bias when it comes to this topic (as getting people outdoors into God’s Creation is a primary principle of our mission), but we think you’ll find this book to not only be informational, but a powerful call to action as well!

Look for it at your favorite book shop.
ISBN-13: 978-1-56512-605-3

Posted on April 25th by Matthew Williams

The Power Of Camp: It Never Gets Old

The Power Of Camp: It Never Gets Old

It never gets old. It really doesn’t.

Without fail, time and time again when I’m talking with past and present campers about their Sky Lake experiences there is a common thread that weaves its way through the vast majority of these personal stories. And that is the idea that “I was able to be myself at camp.”

I’m no different. I too had the same exact experience as a camper (and still do as a year-round staff member!)

I recently had an invitation to speak at New Milford United Methodist Church and briefly shared with them a story of a pre-teen camper who went to Sky Lake for the first time once upon a time. This camper was the youngest sibling by a number of years, so learned about the joys and tribulations of sharing a room; got in trouble for eating peach cobbler with a butter knife on a cookout; properly dove into a lake for the first time; and stood on the shoreline of that same lake the last night of camp, tears streaming down his face while simultaneously trying to watch the candlelit cross float out into the darkness and remember all the words to Pass It On. Crying because he was going to miss this community that welcomed him with open arms, introduced him to new friends from all over the place, provided safe and unique experiences that allowed him to test drive being independent for a bit, and challenged to embrace his full self as a beloved child of God.

“Harvey the Hippo” recently had some fun on April Fool’s Day by posting this photo of our director, Matt, as a camper on the Sky Lake Facebook page. As you might notice, Matt truly felt comfortable to embrace his full, wacky self as a camper at Sky Lake Junior High Camp with Junie Ely back in the day.

After the service, one of our camper alums came up to me and said “until you said that that was YOUR story, Matt, I thought you were talking about ME!” A few moments later her mom approaches me and shares the same thought. (Interestingly, “mom” had been up front helping to lead the service so they hadn’t even chatted yet at this point.)

Connections of all sorts are made at Sky Lake. Connections with others of varying ages, abilities, and socio-economic backgrounds. Connections with young adults who are committed to mentoring campers. Connections with the flora and fauna of God’s magnificent Creation. And connections with a living God who calls us to go forth and transform the world!

Do these connections happen because there’s some sort of magic to be found at Sky Lake? As much as we’d like to think that sometimes, it turns out that a bunch of individuals committed to providing experiences that care for the physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being of all, is far more powerful than any kind of magic!

As I look back on my time as a camper and then as a staff member, I can’t help but think that the friends I’ve made, the skills I’ve learned, and the opportunities to grow as a Christian would not have been as robust had I not responded to my friend’s invitation to go to Sky Lake with him almost thirty years ago.

That’s the power of camp, my friends.

It never gets old. It really doesn’t.

Blessings on your journey. Hope our paths cross again soon!

Camper Alum and Director of Sky Lake

Posted on April 11th by Matthew Williams

CRM Fall/Winter 2015 Newsletter Released

To view the complete newsletter click HERE.

“Commitment is what transforms a promise into reality.” - Abraham Lincoln

There are numerous references in the Bible addressing the Christian’s commitment in various aspects of
life: to our families, neighbors, employers, the church, our health, and in all things we do and say (Acts 2:42;
Hebrews 10:25; 1 Corinthians 6:19, 31). But the Bible also teaches that the chief commitment of our lives is to
God. Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your
mind. This is the first and greatest commandment” (Matthew 22:37-38).

Paul followed the Lord’s example of commitment in sacrifice and service. Paul said, “I have been crucified with
Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in
the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

One of my favorite things to do is read camper evaluations. This is where we learn about favorite foods,
activities, and what the campers would like us to add or subtract from our programs. This is also where we
offer the campers the opportunity to disclose how the experience at camp helped them in their commitment
to follow God. The entire reason camp and retreat centers were established was to assist the local church with
the evangelic work of renewing or creating a transformed life for Christ. All the fun activities and meaningful
learning help to create the environment where one can meet the creator and come to walk side by side in a
relationship that changes all other relationships.

Our centers are incredible places where participants on retreat or engaged in one of our summer camp
programs learn about the act of commitment. Whether it’s serving table mates, community cabin/lodge clean
up, or taking turns on a given activity, guests learn that there is a God, God loves them, and God wants a
relationship with them. We encourage campers to commit to forming genuine community, to each other, and
to creation around us. Each and every week campers are invited to make a commitment: to renew an existing
relationship with God, or to prayerfully consider making a first time commitment to follow Jesus and live as a
transformed light in the world.

Many people over the years have made sacrificial commitments to serve our centers with their time, talents,
and financial resources. Even just this summer thousands of hours were donated as service to God and
these beautiful places. Nancy prepared over 30 hand made custom stoles for Director’s Invitational and has
for many years. Jennie and John gave 47 full days and drove an hour each way over the summer months to
serve at Aldersgate as an act of commitment to God. Each and every Thursday a group of men sacrifice their
‘to do’ list at home and commit to traveling and serving at Skye Farm as volunteers. Numerous churches and
individuals commit to give to our annual funds, designated projects, or where needed most. We appreciate
you committing your prayers, your talents, and your financial resources. Our commitment to you is that we
will continue to honor the gift and the giver as critical to this sacred work for Christ that we do together.

May God continue to bless these places where Lives are Transformed.

Mike Huber
Director Camp & Retreat Ministries

To view the complete newsletter click HERE.

Posted on November 30th by Mike Huber

International Camp T-Shirt Day

Join campers from around the world in wearing a camp t-shirt on Tuesday, 17 November 2015. Be sure to tag any photos with #camptshirtday and the hashtag of the camp shirt you’re wearing (for Sky Lake, use: #skylake15)

Here’s an article for more information:

Posted on November 16th by Matthew Williams