Every year, the Huver family recharges and reconnects at Family Foundations Family Camp. Photo courtesy of the Huver family

Summer camp offers quality family time

By 
  • September 16, 2017

It’s a family tradition.

Before the Huver family braced for September’s back-to-school chaos, Stephen and Krista Huver packed the family off to Camp Vincent for a one-week retreat with God, each other and His Creation.

“I think spiritually, as well, it’s a good time because it’s summer,” said Stephen. “You’ve got your spiritual busy time with Lent and Christmas. But the summer is good time to spend time thinking about your intentions.”

Family camp is a week-long outdoor retreat run by Family Foundations Institute in Camp Vincent in Bothwell, Ont., and John Paul Culture Centre in Port Burwell, Ont.

Family Foundations Institute (famfi.ca) is a Catholic organization that runs events programs in support of family life. FFI is known for its annual conferences, such as the annual marriage conference, the Men of Faith conference and the Pure Life Summit.

It also provides family catechism classes throughout southern Ontario.

Executive director Brian Simpson said family retreat camp has been a very important summer ministry for families.

“The rest of the year is very ‘go go’ and we really have to fight for that time together,” said Simpson. “We found families have responded so well (to the family camp) because they really discover the treasure of being a way together as a family unit without distractions.”

FFI hosts 12 families each week. This year, it ran for three weeks in July and one week in August.

The Huver family has been a yearly presence at family camp since it started in 2014. Before that, in 2012 and 2013, they would travel to a similar family camp in Dominus Vobiscum retreat centre in Mandeville, Que. (an hour’s drive north of Montreal).

“We talked to a bunch of our friends, we had this great experience and where else could you get away with your family for under a $1,000,” said Stephen. “A bunch of people said it would be great if it wasn’t so far away, so we talked to Brian (Simpson) and he found a campsite for us and that’s how it started.”

At $850 per family, Stephen said the camp is a perfect way for his family of eight to “get those batteries recharged” before the busyness of the fall season sets in.

Both Camp Vincent and John Paul Culture Centre have an outdoor pool, a canoe pond and large grassy fields for children to run around.

Each family is assigned their own cabin with their own bathrooms. Even for the Huver family, with six children ages four to 15, the cabins are comfortable living spaces.

A key selling point to family camp, said Krista, is that there is an in-house cook that serves three hot meals per day for the entire week.

“Each family can just spend their time playing with their kids and visiting with each other and not also looking after food stuff,” she said.

“It’s hard to come home after camp because we don’t have three hot meals a day anymore,” Stephen laughed.

The past few years, Stephen and Krista have taken up the responsibility of the camp’s host couple, in charge of keeping the schedule running.

Every morning, a parent discussion session is held in the recreation hall. A priest is also available throughout the week for daily Mass and confessions. Every night, families can gather around a campfire for a rosary and some campfire songs.

Stephen emphasized that all daily activities are optional and that’s the beauty of the programming. Each family can decide how to best spend their time together for the week.

Even though the events are optional, Krista said the families want to attend the daily events. The best part of the family camp is living in community with other families that share their Catholic values.

“We talk a lot about living the liturgical year as a family,” she said. “We’ve talked about teaching kids about sexuality and how families deal with sensitive topics…. It’s a lot of mentoring and people learning from each other, especially with couples who have older children to the younger families.”

“It’s not like there’s any one right answer, we just share with each other ideas,” Stephen added.

Through family camp, parents gain a network of fellow parents to turn to for advice. Children often meet each other at different Catholic events, as well.

Krista said it’s been valuable for the kids to see other families that live the same Catholic values, which they don’t necessarily see in their immediate group of friends.

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