In the beginning…
Camp Quest was founded in 1996 by a small group of dedicated and energetic people with the Free Inquiry Group of Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. Edwin and Helen Kagin, Ed McAndrews, Elizabeth Oldiges, Nikki Orlemann, and David Scheidt served as members of the original Camp Quest planning committee, with Vern Uchtman as chairperson.
The idea to offer a summer camp program designed for children from atheist, agnostic, humanist, and other freethinking families originated partially in response to the Boy Scouts of America’s increasing enforcement of their policy requiring boys to profess a belief in God. It became clear that children from nontheistic families needed their own place to belong and enjoy the summer camp experience.
The first Camp Quest session, serving 20 campers ages 8-12, was held in Boone County, Kentucky in August of 1996. After meeting in Kentucky for two years, Camp Quest relocated to Ohio in 1998.
Edwin and Helen Kagin served as Camp Directors for the first ten years of the original Camp Quest camp, retiring at the end of the 2005 camp session. Edwin was an eagle scout who became an atheist later in life. He is a lawyer, and currently serves as the National Legal Director for American Atheists. Helen was an anesthesiologist. In 2010, in memory of Helen, Camp Quest, Inc. established the Helen Kagin Memorial Campership Fund to provide financial aid to families who need assistance paying to register their children for camp.
As the original Camp Quest grew, it expanded to serve teenagers ages 13-17 as well as children 8-12. Campers traveled from across the U.S., as well as from Canada, the UK, Japan, and the Curacao Islands to attend Camp Quest sessions.
Incorporation and Expansion
The desire to expand prompted Camp Quest to incorporate independently in 2002. Over the next several years the Institute for Humanist Studies awarded grants to support the formation of new Camp Quest camps. These new camps were independently operated, but were based on the same mission as the original.
Camp Quest Smoky Mountains was the first new Camp Quest to launch in 2002. By summer of 2006 there were a total of six Camp Quests, including new locations in California, Michigan, Minnesota, and Ontario.
As the number of Camp Quests increased, more of a need developed for coordination among the independently operated programs. In 2007 Camp Quest, Inc., the operator of the original Camp Quest, expanded its mission to also serve as an umbrella organization supporting all of the Camp Quest camps in North America.
In 2008, with the generous support of a grant from the Institute for Humanist Studies, Camp Quest, Inc. hired its first employee, Executive Director Amanda Metskas.
Camp Quest is continuing to expand with new programs opening in Virginia and South Carolina. Camp Quest UK and new Camp Quests opening in Ireland and Norway are also replicating our model overseas.