Red Oak Camp has strived to help generations of campers and other guests experience the great outdoors, and now the Kirtland-based organization plans to celebrate its 75th anniversary as it prepares for new programs and facilities.
To celebrate the occasion and to introduce friends of the camp to its new property, Lantern Court Estate, Red Oak will be holding an anniversary celebration with tickets to the new garden on September 9th, as well as a silent auction. The proceeds go to the scholarship fund. For more information, see redoakcamp.org/donate.
Faulstich explained that Red Barn Summer Camp for Red Oak boys began in 1947 after Frank Dimpsey, a teacher at the Hawken School, invited boys from the school to Kirtland for outdoor summer programs. The campers met in a red barn near Corning Lake in what is now the Holden Arboretum.
By 1952, the program began nighttime programming for older students. And in 1957, Alison “Sunny” Jones started the Chincapin Summer Camp for girls, with a special focus on horseback riding, in addition to other camp activities.
“I really like being involved in this particular camp, because of its history and most of all because of the people, because I think we manage these experiences really well and, as the mission says, develop their inner character through outdoor experiences and Exploration,” said Winnie Jones Nordell, daughter of Jones and CEO of Red Oak.
Faulstich attended Red Oak as a child. One of the most memorable experiences for him was the opportunity to end the summer with a wilderness backpacking tour.
“I couldn’t wait to come back next year,” he said.
Faulstich held various consulting and management positions at Red Oak until 2011. In 2015 he returned to take up his current position.
Director of Development and Communications David Baxter also came to the camp as a child. After college and a role in business and finance, he approached Faulstich, his former camp counselor, about opportunities at Red Oak.
“I’ve always had an interest in the outdoors, but I think Red Oak really planted that seed for me,” he said.
The camp’s history was visible in its lodge building, which Faulstich says was built in the 1920s and served as a country house before becoming part of the camp. Award boards list all winners of the camp’s competitions since its inception. They also show changes in the activities the camp has offered over time.
“Even though new activities are being introduced and we’re adding things like zip lines and high ropes courses and things like that, the nature of the camp’s core experience remains very similar,” he said. “It’s about being in nature with other people, a kind of shared experience and learning about yourself, learning about others and the world around you.”
According to Faulstich, Red Oak offers two summer day camps for kids in grades one through seven — Red Barn for boys and Chincapin for girls. These week-long camps teach children skills like making fires, outdoor cooking, archery, kayaking, fishing, rock climbing and swimming.
Campers in Chincapin also partake in horseback riding. Activities are tailored to a child’s age, with older campers being given more freedom to organize their schedules according to their interests.
“As our campers get older we have a leadership program so we teach them some of those leadership skills and how to work with a group and with younger campers so you get that kind of organic interaction between the 6-year-old and the 13- year olds,” said Faulstich.
Other camp facilities include tennis and basketball courts, an archery range, an outdoor climbing tower, a high ropes course, and a science center with aquariums and terrariums. Faulstich said there are six insulated, heated 1950s-era cabins, each of which can accommodate eight RVs.
In addition to these summer camps, he found that Red Oak offers a leadership experience to campers entering grades 8 through 10 and wilderness trips to campers entering grades 6 through 10.
Red Oak offered overnight programs for campers entering grades five through seven this year, although Baxter said the age range could be expanded next year.
He added that people after 10th grade can serve as camp counselors.
Buses continue to pick up campers from Pepper Pike throughout the summer, reflecting the camp’s historical connections to Hawken School families. Recently, Faulstich said, more campers have been coming from Lake and Geauga counties.
The camp also works with outside organizations, he explained. It worked with the Footpath Foundation in the summer of 2022 to bring children from underserved areas in Cleveland to the camp. Red Oak also works year-round with schools, businesses, faith-based organizations, Boy Scout troopers and more.
Baxter said the camp serves about 150 campers per week during its summer program and, accounting for campers returning for multiple weeks, hosts about 600 campers total each summer.
Faulstich added that the camp employs about 2,500 to 3,000 people each year.
In addition to the main campgrounds, he noted that Red Oak offers programs at Tannerwood Farm, just down Kirtland-Chardon Road in Chardon Township. Chincapin campers use the facility and Red Oak also offers riding lessons there for members of the public ages 8 and up. Jones still rides horses there, 65 years after she founded Chincapin.
As Red Oak leaders celebrate their history, they also plan for future growth. Faulstich noted that the camp recently acquired Holden Arboretum’s 27-acre Lantern Court Estate, which includes a historic home and 9 acres of landscaped gardens. He added that the facility is air-conditioned and offers more parking and interior space than existing storage facilities.
Beginning in mid-September, Red Oak will offer more public programs in the new facility.
The estate also includes a large field called Sunny’s Field, which Faulstich believes will be useful for camp activities.
“We’re all about connecting with nature and the world around us, and there are so many ways to do that here with this property,” he said.
Individuals interested in learning more about Red Oak Camp and the programs it offers can visit redoakcamp.org. The camp is located at 9057 Kirtland Chardon Road, Kirtland.