A couple of memories standout for John Morgan about his boyhood experience attending a sleep-away summer camp: The cabin where he bunked lacked air conditioning, and the scheduled activities were few.
“I was roughing it,” he recalled. “But the beautiful part of getting away and finding yourself in the wilderness a little bit was still there.” As was a youth pastor whose positive influence “changed my trajectory” in life.
(ABOVE: Campers enjoy a range of activities including a ropes course and water sports. Photos Courtesy Sky Ranch)
“I had somebody investing in me, caring about how I turned out,” Morgan said.
The latter, Morgan said, is one of the “underlining principles” of Sky Ranch, a Christian-based camp with locations in Texas, Oklahoma, and Colorado.
Morgan started with the company in 1998 as a camp staffer. He now serves as vice president of its ministry programs and oversees its sleep-away camps and day-camp programs for schools and churches around Dallas-Fort Worth as well as camps designed to accommodate entire families.
“Even though we’re crazy and fun and loud and silly … it’s way more silent than the world.” -John Morgan
Located about 70 miles east of Dallas and situated on a 90-acre lake, Sky Ranch’s site in Van boasts modern amenities and facilities for children in grades one through nine. The campus can house up to 700 campers in its wooden-structure cabins, which feature air conditioning and indoor bathrooms, during each of its 11 weeklong sessions scheduled from May 26 through Aug. 10.
The Van facility also has three pools, numerous waterslides and inflatables, climbing walls, treehouse-like structures, amphitheaters, an outdoor laser-tag course, a vertical playground with ropes obstacles, and an interactive nature center.
Activities traditionally associated with summer camp are also available. “We still sing. We still have campfires,” Morgan said.
An extensive horsemanship program, led by champion steer wrestler Rope Myers, is offered on an adjacent 240 acres where arenas and horse trails are located.
Getting outdoors and away from modern-day pressures is important for children, who are not allowed to bring their cell phones to Sky Ranch.
In a camp setting, Morgan said, “Even though we’re crazy and fun and loud and silly … it’s way more silent than the world … you get to leave behind, and you get to know your real self a little better.”
Although it is not affiliated with any one denomination, Sky Ranch’s curriculum does include religious discussion and activities. Campers “sit down once a day as a cabin and walk through … some pretty basic fundamentals,” Morgan explained.
“There are all kinds of campers out here, all different belief structures. We still adhere to what we know is true during those teaching times,” he said. “We love and care for everyone so well that even nonbelievers come back year after year and … feel cared for while they’re here.”
Fees at Sky Ranch average upward of $1,000 per camper for each Sky Ranch session. Scholarships are available for those who qualify. Additional information can be found at skyranch.org.
Morgan said the camp experience often proves “life-changing” for children. “There is some sort of personal development, spiritual development that happens.”