How it Started…
Camp Friendship is the vision of its owner, Chuck Ackenbom. His love for camps started when he worked as a counselor in both Germany and New Hampshire. After serving in the Navy as a Navy pilot for 5 years Chuck started to look for property in central Virginia and found 110 acres in Fluvanna County. Chuck couldn’t have picked a more picturesque place in the area. The land sits high above Palmyra and borders the Rivanna River with lots of rolling hills and hardwoods. Chuck got out of the Navy in 1966 and opened that summer as a day camp with a dining hall and two cabins, one of which was built by his then 11-year old son Ray. Chuck raised his family on the grounds and together they built the lakes, tennis courts and other buildings.
Camp Goes International…
It took 10 years for Camp Friendship to grow to 100 children. In 1981 it expanded from 100 to 200 kids. More buildings and program areas were built: ropes course, Olympic-size swimming pool, riflery and archery ranges, sports gymnasium and sports fields, and equestrian center with its own 75 horses, indoor arena and four outdoor rings. The new programs were added to the traditional general camp: adventure challenge trips, sports specialized programs as well as a great number of outdoor activities for kids in general program. The reputation of Camp Friendship spread outside Virginia and the United States and it now hosts 450 campers who come from almost 20 different countries each summer.
Never Stop Dreaming…
Several years ago Chuck and his family built a Gymnastics Center, which stays open all year round for the local community and children. The programs offered by Kay Walsh, gymnastics director, and her staff draw about 300 kids from the area to participate in numerous activities offered in the center.
With the purchase of the property in 1991, new ideas were generated to develop the 265 acres surrounding the camp’s entrance road into a project, which would be compatible with the camp program. Chuck joined forces with his long-time friend from Boy Scout camping days, Walt Wurfel, to establish the Laurel Ridge Golf Course, which opened in October, 1997.
Despite its growth, the camp has never lost its original vision. Today the camp tries to set an idea lifestyle to live by.
“It’s a place where children from all over the world can gather in peace.”
- that camp should be child centered as opposed to skill centered
- that the facilities, program activities and staff are for the benefit of the child
- that camp should be a time and a place free from the competitive pressures that children must bear in our society
- that the camp program should stimulate creative minds, build healthy bodies and challenge adventurous souls
- that the qualities of cooperation and appreciation of others, learned in a camp setting, can best teach knowledge of oneself
- that the camp should provide for children the kind of experience that serves to develop and strengthen high standards of living and a realistic sense of values among them, a recognition of the inherent worth of every individual, a feeling of unity among all people, an awareness of and concern for the natural heritage of our earth.
Because our primary concern is for the physical, mental and spiritual growth and well-being of our campers, every effort is made to provide the highest quality environment possible.