First Time Camper

The first time camper experience is like many other important experiences in life: the better one is prepared, the more one gets out of the experience. One of the first things to do, especially with new campers (but returning campers need reminders, too!), is to talk with your camper(s) about what they can expect. While giving them a positive preview of their coming experience, let them know that life at Camp will be different from life at home and that you want them to gain many new experiences while away. Below are a few things you should review with your camper(s) to help ease their transition to camp life. After reviewing this page, please reference other important information on the Parent Resources page, including transportation, living arrangements, packing lists, medical care, mail & packages, etc.

Who can come to Camp?

Camp Ondessonk is a Catholic youth camp open to all campers, regardless of race, national origin, or any other categories protected by Federal, State, or local law. All campers and staff are expected to demonstrate respect for each other, regardless of differences while at Camp. Camp Ondessonk makes every effort to accommodate all campers that wish to attend, regardless of physical or emotional needs, dietary requirements, or other circumstances. Camp is, however, rustic, rugged, communal, and gender-binary by nature. Our goal is for all campers to have a safe, positive, and adventurous week with us at Camp. In order to provide the best experience possible, please contact us prior to enrolling your child if you feel that any accommodation may be needed during their stay. We will work with you to determine if appropriate accommodations can be made within our current program, scope, and budget.

Many campers with attention and behavior challenges can thrive at Camp; however, it is recommended that parents reach out to us prior to registration to allow us to set-up the camper in the best situation possible.  At this time, we do not have the resources to provide supervision for campers who need one-on-one attention or are unable to function well in a group setting. All campers must be able to follow directions and exhibit safe and appropriate coping mechanisms when conflict arises. If you would like to speak with someone about whether Camp Ondessonk is right for your child, contact Camp or complete the Optional Camper Resource Request. Someone will be in touch with you to discuss your camper’s needs.

First time camper - who can come to camp?

Who is in charge and taking care of my kids?

All individuals working at Ondessonk chose the job because of a strong desire to serve others. The leadership and staff consist of devoted individuals with extensive experience in fields related to youth development and outdoor leadership. The summer leadership staff is comprised of proven, sound decision-makers who have completed college or are actively working toward that goal. Ondessonk’s counseling and activity staff is predominantly made up of former Ondessonk campers who have worked their way up the ranks. All are carefully selected in a highly-competitive hiring process that includes a background check. Excluding the administrative staff, the staff to camper ratio is approximately 1:8. Staff training emphasizes child development, child protection, teaching skills, and responsible leadership. First Aid, CPR, and Youth Mental Health First Aid training is required. Depending upon the position, staff members are certified by the Certified Horsemanship Association, National Rifle Association, American Red Cross, and/or other appropriate certifying bodies.

First time camper - who takes care of my kid?
First time camper - Camp Ondessonk Illinois Summer Camp Counselors

Typical Daily Schedule

7:45 AM Breakfast
8:45 AM Activity Rotations*
12:30 PM Lunch
1:00 PM Siesta (Rest Hour)
2:30 PM Activity Rotations*
4:45 PM Free Time & Shower Time
5:45 PM Optional Prayer Service
6:15 PM Flag Ceremony
6:30 PM Dinner
8:00 PM Evening Activity
10:00 PM Taps and Lights Out
* Activities include horse programming, archery, boating, woodscraft, riflery, handicrafts, swimming, nature exploration and challenge programs. Learn more about the activities.


All campers are expected to uphold the following behavior agreement:
1) Take Care of Ourselves by staying safe, listening and following directions from counselors, applying sunscreen and bug spray every day, and reporting anything that doesn’t feel right to our counselors.
2) Take Care of Others by showing kindness and respect for fellow campers and staff through words and actions.
3) Take Care of Camp by not disturbing the animals and plants that live here, keeping Camp clean from litter and graffiti, and caring for Camp’s buildings and equipment like it is our own.

Campers are expected to follow all summer camp rules, including those not listed here, that may be set forth by Camp Ondessonk staff. The Camp Director reserves the right to dismiss campers for unacceptable behavior and gross violations of camp rules without refund. Parents will be responsible for arranging and covering costs for their child’s early departure.


One of the significant growth opportunities campers experience is being independent of parents, with typically little to no contact during their camping session. This can be one of the most positive experiences they can have at Camp and one which can be invaluable in the process of growing up. Be aware that as a parent, you may need to prepare for this as much—if not more—than your first time camper!

Visitation Policy

Please feel free to meet our staff and tour the Camp facilities on check-in day. For the safety and security of our campers, and because a first time camper often becomes homesick when they see a parent or family member, no visitors are allowed during the week. For parents who want a more thorough experience of Camp Ondessonk, we have family weekend events you can attend, as well as our open houses.

Contact with your Child

Receiving or placing phone calls to your child during the session disrupts the program and often makes homesickness worse, so we do not allow calls except for in emergency situations. Therefore, you will probably not hear from Camp or your camper during the session, and remember, “no news is good news!” If your camper suffers serious injury or illness, you will be promptly notified. This includes any issue requiring off-Camp health services or an illness in which a fever lasts for more than 24 hours. Personal cell phones found in a camper’s possession will be held in a secure location until the end of the session.

Should an emergency requiring communication with your child arise, please call the Camp Office at 877-659-2267. If it is after hours, the voicemail system will offer you an emergency number to dial.

If you mail your camper a letter or package, you must send them extra, extra early to ensure they arrive on time. Include your campers name and camp session on the outside of the envelope and mail to:

Campers Name, Session
Camp Ondessonk
3760 Ondessonk Road
Ozark, IL.  62972

Refer a Friend Program

First time camper - Refer a Friend Camp Ondessonk Illinois Summer Camp

Help sign up a first time camper this summer, and both you and your new camper friend will receive $20 in non-refundable barter bucks for the Trading Post.  

To register, simply fill out this form!
Questions? Contact 877-659-2267 x 131 or email registration@ondessonk.com.

The program can be terminated at any time, and without notice.

Program Rules:

  • Referred camper must be a new camper.
  • You cannot refer yourself.
  • The camper you referred cannot refer you back.
  • There is no limit to the number of friends you can refer, and we encourage our camper families to share with as many friends as they can.
  • Referred camper cannot reside at the same address as Referrer.
  • Non-refundable barter bucks will be applied once Camp tuition is paid in full.
  • Non-refundable barter bucks are only valid onsite during camper session and may not be exchanged for cash.

Parent & Camper Testimonials

“Last summer at Camp Ondessonk I learned that I don’t have to act a certain way and that it’s okay to be myself. I loved that everyone is so kind to each other. As a first-time camper I learned that Camp isn’t all about winning and that I should focus on having fun. I have learned so much from Camp O, but the most important thing I learned is to respect nature. I used to not like spiders and snakes, but now I know that God loves all creatures.”

– Eva, Camper

“The little 11 year-old girl that we dropped off to Camp was not the same girl we picked up. She had blossomed so much in that one week. As a first-time camper she developed this confidence and independence that was so wonderful to see. That confidence and acceptance she gained from Camp Ondessonk has allowed her to thrive in school and other social settings. I very much look forward to watching her continue to grow at Camp Ondessonk.”

– Kim Kinnaman, Parent

“I loved it. I was a bit nervous at first but once I got settled and realized what an amazing place it is, I never wanted to leave. The people there are incredible and so are the activities and opportunities. Not only did I do and learn things I never thought I would, it also made me a better Christian and brought me closer to God. This place will always be special in my heart.”

– Karma, Camper

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