Camp Ondessonk, a residential youth summer camp, has proudly served campers since the summer of 1959. Ondessonk’s 983-acre site is adjacent to the Shawnee National Forest and is among the most scenic summer camps in the United States. The cabins, facilities, and programs are deliberately designed to immerse participants in a setting not often encountered today. This traditional approach to summer camping allows participants to fully experience their surroundings in a fun, adventurous, and supportive environment.
Camp Ondessonk’s summer camp programs are designed for children ages 8-17 years old. We strive to meet the highest health and safety standards and are proud to be accredited by the American Camp Association. This accreditation means that Camp Ondessonk thoroughly reviews operational practices, seeks the wisdom of other summer camp professionals, and continually makes improvements within our summer camp program to comply with more than 300 written standards. Only one-fourth of summer camps in the United States have earned this mark of distinction. Additionally, Camp Ondessonk’s Equestrian Program is accredited by the Certified Horsemanship Association.
Our camper fees are extremely competitive, and unlike many other summer camps, Ondessonk does not charge additional fees for horseback riding or senior camper electives. Camp Ondessonk is owned and operated by the Catholic Diocese of Belleville, Illinois. Christian traditions and teachings guide the work of this ministry. People of all faiths are encouraged and welcome to enjoy Ondessonk.
Programs and Activities
**Mini Camp Explorers can participate in all activities with modifications made for their age. Mini Campers will participate in fewer activities based on the length of their stay.**
Campers have the opportunity to learn proper safety and shooting techniques while handling a bow and arrow. Program content is based on USA Archery guidelines. For Mini Campers and Explorers, target distance is shorter to allow for better accuracy, and a creative target, such as balloons, could be added for a fun shooting experience.
Campers will learn proper safety and shooting techniques of a .22 caliber rifle based on the National Rifle Association guidelines for safe handling. Mini Camp Explorers have the chance to learn rifle range safety while using slingshots to practice their shooting.
Campers will get a chance to learn a variety of crafts during their week at camp. Crafts could include “boondoggling,” leather stamping, beadwork, tie-dying, and other traditional favorites that stretch the limits of a campers’ imagination. Crafts may vary from week to week.
In accordance with Certified Horsemanship Association safety practices, traditional campers will have the opportunity to learn how to effectively ride a horse through an obstacle course or on a trail ride. They will practice the horsemanship skills they learn by navigating around poles, barrels, or trees and over bridges, logs, and creeks! Mini-Campers and Explorers go on a pony ride, learn how to groom horses, and enjoy other stables activities.
Campers will receive an introduction to outdoor living skills. Outdoor skills could include fire building, shelter making, knots & lashings, orienteering, and other basic skills to help survive in the woods. Older campers often learn more advanced skills.
All campers will have the chance to float along and explore the wooded shoreline of Lake Echon while testing their skills in a canoe or kayak. Before touching the water, campers are taught basic strokes and boating maneuvers on land. Certified lifeguards help supervise and teach boating activities.
All campers will get to enjoy Ondessonk’s beautiful swimming lake, Lake St. Isaac, multiple times during their stay. Under the supervision of certified lifeguards, the swimming area has many great features including water slides, beach volleyball, and floating docks. Campers who pass the advanced swim assessment can also use the zip-line and Tarzan swing. Advanced swimming options are not offered during Mini Camp.
Campers will have the chance to explore spiritual concepts of nature and life through stories, discussions, and interactive activities; all based around the namesakes of Camp Ondessonk and our Catholic tradition.
Campers will have the opportunity to explore the property of Ondessonk during their week at camp. Nature instructors will take campers on an expedition they’ll never forget—over, under, and through waterfalls, split-rock formations, lakes, streams, and bluffs. Throughout the day, campers will play nature games and appreciate God’s creation.
Campers will have the opportunity to step out of their comfort zone to grow as an individual and a unit while participating in our challenge course elements. Challenge course elements could include the Climbing Wall, Giant Swing, Flying Squirrel, Zipline, or High Jungle. Each year, trained staff design a progression for units to help them grow both in the air and on the ground. Mini Camp Explorers will have the chance to use the Climbing Wall during their stay to get a taste of our challenge program.
During the day on Friday, campers will have a day designed to test their skills and cohesion as a unit. Activities include an Arrowhead Hunt to test individual skills at different activities, a Special Activity planned around the theme of the week, Tug-of-War against the other units in camp, and a Marathon relay filled with varying activities for every camper in the unit to have a role as they race to the finish line.
Each evening brings a specific program designed to help campers progress through the week with a fun nighttime activity. Sunday night begins with Mass and the opening campfire, full of songs and skits. Other activities include unit campfires, a camp-wide game, an overnight adventure away from units, the Lodge Ceremony, and a huge closing campfire at which each unit performs a skit or song.
Mini Campers/Explorers will participate in evening programming that is geared towards their age group on Tuesday and Thursday nights. Wednesday night overnights are spent sleeping in the unit after cooking dinner over a fire and participating in similar activities to the Traditional Camp overnight campout.