Young Life camp aims to ‘blow away’ expectations

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UPPER SARANAC LAKE — A high ropes course in the trees captures your attention upon entering Young Life’s Saranac Village, but the impressive features don’t stop there.

Along with the typical summer activities, the camp offers parasailing, wakeboarding, tubing, water skiing, disc golf, bocce courts, basketball courts, a hot tub, a water slide, a camp store and a rec room with various games, including carpet ball, a game that looks like pool without the cues and is similar to bowling.

The camp on Upper Saranac Lake has 44 acres with another 50 acres of undeveloped land across the street. The camp was built in 1903 as a private estate called Prospect Point, designed by William Coulter for Adolph Lewisohn. Lewisohn, at the time, was one of the richest men in America, a New York copper magnate and financier.

His private getaway had the biggest boathouse on Upper Saranac Lake, along with a gasoline-powered generator and telephones throughout. It retains some of its character of that era with birchbark ceilings, pearl call buttons, copper fixtures and covered walkways.

Lewisohn died at the camp in 1938. It was then operated as a hunting, fishing lodge until 1952, when it became a Jewish girls camp called Camp Navarac. In 1969, Young Life, a non-denominational Christian youth outreach organization, purchased it and is now in its 47th summer.

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Young Life owns more than 20 camps all over the country. To attend a camp, kids can get in contact with their local Young Life group, usually through their church. Saranac Village is separate from the Saranac Lake Young Life youth group in town.

“The whole camp is really designed to welcome high school kids in, to give them fun, adventure and laughter, to give them experiences,” Director Dan Maiore said. “They come in a group, so we have areas that come, and they come with their leaders.

“When they sign up in their local area, the tagline they’re going to hear is, ‘This is going to be the best week of your life,’ so it’s our job to make sure that’s a true statement.”

In general, there are about 400 campers and leaders a week, who all stay together in a giant lodge. The summer camp runs for 12 weeks. In the afternoon, some groups go from activity to activity together, which is called a “Cabin Ride.” Once in the morning and at night, there is a camp-wide event. After dinner, there is a daily meeting called “Club.”

Saranac Village has 80 unpaid volunteers split between high school and college students.

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There are also 14 year-round staff members from Saranac Lake, who are all part of the community.

“In reality, we have people who are really invested in what happens here,” Maiore said. “That’s why we have nice boats, a ropes course, parasailing and tubing. It’s a lot of work to have those things, but to get a high school kid up in a parasail at 300 feet and have them looking at the beauty of God’s creation, and the mountains and the Adirondacks — that’s worth it. We’re trying to give them a different perspective on life.

“The way we operate is designed for a camper to come, and they’ll think of a typical camp, but we are trying to blow all of those expectations away,” Maiore added. “We have all different types of kids, from all different backgrounds and we are trying to reach every kid.”

For more information on the Saranac Village Young Life camp, visit https://saranac.younglife.org/Pages/default.aspx.

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