Hail Star Lake Camp – Happy 100th Birthday!

By Colonel Richard Munn

The summer of 2023 marks the 100th anniversary of Star Lake Camp, maybe the most renown summer camp in the Salvation Army world. This is either by its remarkable longevity, infamous pep rally song, zippy brass band march, illustrious alumni, or the sheer cumulated impact of all it represents in the lives of untold numbers of children, young adults and seniors alike, or all of the above.

Synonymous with the Greater New York Division and the USA Eastern Territory, the Star Lake story is a beautiful one.

Purchased from the Kampfe family in 1923, whose ancestors had invented the first safety ‘star razor,’ the upkeep of the 324 acre property was proving burdensome for the family. In stepped The Salvation Army, led by Commissioner Thomas Estill, who envisioned a place where children could ‘receive instruction, combining spiritual development with recreation and physical development, thus providing for their souls as well as their bodies.’ The timing matched the broader national growth of ‘fresh air’ summer camps of the era, and perfectly embodied Salvationist holistic mission.

The property expanded in 1974 to include the land that now houses the Star Lake Lodge and Conference Center. Whether inner-city child, Salvation Army teenage musician, international young adult staff member, local corps member, renown global musical guest, senior citizen, or sophisticated Salvation Army conference attendee, Star Lake has reliably provided a venue where deep and lasting human and spiritual impact occurs.

The list of Star Lake luminaries is lengthy and almost beyond fully recording: from Bandmaster Erik Leidzen embodying the very best of army musicianship, to long-time camp director Brigadier Marion Henderson who first got the camp accredited with the American Camping Association (ACA), to Colonel Lyle Rader (OF) and his fiery evangelistic preaching at camp meetings, to Lt. Colonel Judy Lamarr leading the impactful Bel-mon village program for homeless men, single moms and children, to Scottish Commissioner Betty Matear who first came as a young adult on an international exchange program, to Carol Jaudes first introducing creative arts into the music camp, to NYSB member Tom Scheibner and his 51 consecutive years at music camp, to Colonels Ray and Sandy Jackson serving first as camp directors and now for this special year as divisional leaders,  and undoubtedly more, and more, and more.

This year 2 planned events stand out with distinction: First, a special Senior Adult Music Camp with guests B/M Ron Waiksnoris and Commissioners Carolyn and Jim Knaggs, August 14-19; secondly, a 100th anniversary celebration at Family Camp on August 25-27.

Amidst the boisterous noise of playing children, camp pranks, beginner bands and loudspeaker announcements there is an unobtrusive plaque in the auditorium that serves as a pilgrimage destination for many camp alumni, it says simply: ‘I come here to find myself. It is so easy to get lost in the world.’

Long may it be so as Star Lake camp embarks on to another century of service and impact.