Stoney Point Camp director Tommy Hiduk (right) and communications coordinator Vanessa Billings-Seiler invite the public to attend an event or register for a program at the faith-based facility near Wyalusing.
Story and photo above by Rick Hiduk
(originally published in Living Bradford County Magazine)
The staff and management of Stoney Point Camp near Wyalusing have been building a reputation for providing fun, meaningful programming and activities for youths since opening the facility in 2012. After a decade of growth, camp director Tommy Hiduk, program director Cody Whitmoyer, and new communications coordinator Vanessa Billings-Seiler are welcoming people of all ages for a slate of activities that will bring them closer to the “church of the woods.”
Tommy grew up on the farm in Herrick Township operated by his parents Tom and Laura Hiduk before moving out west where he served for a number of years as a youth pastor. “In Colorado, camp was a big part of our culture there,” he noted, citing equine and nature-related activities among those most popular with children and teens. “We didn’t have any place in this area that offered anything like that.”
During visits back home, he and his wife, Christy, couldn’t help wondering if the environment of the Hiduk homestead might not lend itself to a similar experience. “It’s a great place to learn about God and get away from the business of life,” Tommy stated. “It provided us an opportunity to bring kids out into God’s creation and teach them about the gospel.”
They started with a day camp program that focused on horses, which both fascinated the children and also had a calming effect on them. In two arenas and a classroom building, qualified instructors whom management refers to as “wranglers” teach the young guests about different breeds of horses and their body parts, how to care for them, how to lead them, and – when the youths were ready – how to ride them. They follow Certified Horsemanship Association guidelines so that, if the children attend another camp that offers equine activities, the protocol will be similar.
“We start from the basics and take them as far as we can go in a week,” Tommy explained.
The first week of Boys Adventure Camp started the next year, followed in 2014 by Girls Adventure Camp. Horses are a popular part of both experiences, but the scope of activities has grown to include numerous games and team-building challenges that can be conducted in the woods, as well as craft activities hosted in several buildings on rainy days. “We try to use the woods as play areas as much as possible,” said Tommy.
Offering sleepover opportunities as an alternative to day camp required the acquisition of a lodge that was followed by the construction of two more cabins, raising the total of bunks to 28. The majority of the work has been done by retirees on a volunteer basis. The construction of the Longhouse, named in honor of the Iroquois people who once lived in the region, was a big feat. What was envisioned as a little pathway through the woods to the building led to clearing of trees to build an access road for the cement trucks. The well-appointed Longhouse has since become a focal point of the camp, serving as a chapel, performance room, and play space during inclement weather.
Likewise, the farm itself had a unique appeal. Though the number of animals roaming the pastures and around the barn and coops was never large, Tommy and his three sisters grew up with a variety of livestock, including horses, cows, pigs, goats, and fowl. “Many of the kids have never seen a cow up close before,” Tommy remarked. “Even kids in the Wyalusing School District, because there aren’t as many farms as there used to be.”
“You assume that everyone knows about things that we take for granted,” said Vanessa. “For some of these kids, it’s the first time that they have ever stayed away from home.”
“Or cooking a hot dog over a fire, sleeping in a bunk, seeing where deer live, or building a fort in the woods,” Tommy added.
First-time experiences are one of five goals that Stoney Point Camp staff strive to provide for visitors. “Number one is that they leave with a better friend, whether that be a counselor, a cook, or another camper,” Tommy explained. Subsequently, he hopes that each guest will compose a “life verse” inspired by God that they take with them, paired with a good, singable song. Tommy wants each camper to take home a tangible craft or memento that they can pull out years from now and remember their experience.
According to Vanessa, food is one of the things that participants talk about and remember most about the camp. “If these kids leave here hungry, it’s their own fault,” she laughed.
“We knew we could give them a good meal,” Tommy concurred, citing both his wife and mother as excellent cooks who continue to plan complete, nutritious meals for the campers. “Every meal is an adventure. It’s not eat-and-run. Mealtime is family time. I think that’s something that’s missing in our culture.”
Eleven years from its inception, Camp Stoney Point is going through a process of refurbishing the earliest built structures that parallels its expansion. More multi-generational activities, as well as events specifically for adults, are finding their way onto the calendar.
“When you think about summer camp, you think about kids and grandchildren,” Tommy suggested. “But, the way the world is today, a lot of grandparents, aunts and uncles, are helping to raise and influence kids.”
“When you get here, everything slows down. It’s a different pace and mindset,” Vanessa added. “We want adults to see and want that.”
While youths are still the primary focus for the summer, adult-only activities like Trivia Night occur throughout the year. In February, men and women participated in a bow-building class, using hand tools to construct a personalized bow from raw wood. In March, more than 30 people took part in the second-annual Sap Run, a 5K event on trails through the woods that also increases awareness of the camp’s Sugar Shack and syrup-making programs. Work Wednesdays also began in March, with volunteers bringing their skills and expertise to the facility to spruce things up for the coming season. They have also been making strides in making more of the camp handicap-accessible.
On July 1, the public is invited for a live musical performance by the Needhams (above), a family Southern Gospel act who will perform in the camp’s new amphitheater. The event will include a patriotic picnic and salute to veterans. The concert is free, but donations are appreciated.
The 2023 summer camp schedule is as follows: Horsemen Day Camp for boys and girls from June 19 to 23; Junior Day Camp 1 for boys and girls from June 26 to 30; Junior Day Camp 2 from July 10 to 14; Teen Girl Adventure Camp from July 17 to 21; and Teen Boy Adventure Camp from July 24 to 28. The season will start with a training week for new and returning counselors.
Interested readers can follow Stoney Point Camp on Facebook for program updates and recent photos of activities held there. Registration for the aforementioned programs can be found online at www.stoneypointcamp.com under the events tab. More information can be obtained by calling 570-746-1428 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Stoney Point Camp is located at 1460 Stoney Point Road, Wyalusing, PA 18853.
Story author Rick Hiduk is a first cousin of Tommy Hiduk and used to roam the farm and woods highlighted in the story with his cousins as a youth.