June 1, 2020

Camp Akita | Illinois

As I drove along the endless highways, pass the vast cornfields of Central Illinois, my thoughts turned to the hidden gem that has changed my life immeasurably. Ever since I was a junior camper some 10 years ago, I discovered the extraordinary outreach possibilities of Camp Akita.


I had grown up Catholic, feeling out of my element and intimidated by the idea of praying to God in any way that was different from what I already knew. It did not take long to realize this was not an issue and I was in for one of the most exciting and spiritual summers of my life. I felt emotionally supported and driven to build my relationship with God. So much so, I had to come back every year for more. Now, as an adult, I can see and appreciate how they implemented all the tools to love and teach indiscriminately.      

Throughout childhood and important teen years, youth can often feel as if they cannot control anything in their lives and are never given a choice. Camp Akita provides a safe environment that supports, loves and allows children the independence to decide. In some of the most stressful, constantly changing times of these children’s lives, camp helps illuminate Who is their biggest fan, strongest advocate and unconditional companion. Camp helps youth of all backgrounds choose God on their terms which can be a solid foundation for the most beautiful and meaningful relationship they will ever experience.     

Additionally, Camp Akita has countless activities and events designed for a vast array of ages, interests and abilities. Everyone is given the opportunity to experience new things, make new and lasting relationships, and step outside of their comfort zone. As both a camper and a staff member, I have personally always loved the horse barn for allowing me to connect with God through watching these large, majestic creatures that graze, frolic and greet our oncoming campers. Others love testing their limits on the rock wall, learning about God in Bible study, or exploring their artistic abilities in the craft center. Some love it all and struggle to choose a favorite! For a few, they are enticed to come for the yummy food. The opportunities are endless to enjoy an incredible, dynamic, transformative summer season that’s beyond expectations. 


Mary Claire Smith is a sophomore at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, and is studying Animal Science Pre-Vet. She has attended Camp Akita for the last 10 years, her last four as a staff member. She currently serves as horse barn director.