Key Peninsula resident Kyler Farrell, 10, right, hangs out with his buddy Rayjin Olson, 9, fellow camper and Japanese translator at Miracle Ranch last month. Photo by Scott Turner, KP News

Miracle Ranch on Horseshoe Lake might not be on the Key Peninsula, but it draws many KP residents every year to its horse camps, day camps, sports camps, cheerleader camps and even church camps.

In fact, according to Doug Chase, vice president of Christa Camps, the national, Seattle-based organization that operates Miracle Ranch, “…we get about one-fourth to one-half of our kids who come from the Key Peninsula.”

And there’s also a long-standing partnership with Key Peninsula Parks Department, he added.

Randy Vickery, 19, of Lake of the Woods, is a counselor at the 70-acre camp. Vickery had worked as a counselor at a church camp when his family lived in North Carolina, and his mother mentioned that fact to one of Miracle Ranch’s leaders, who quickly hired him for their summer staff.

“I love this place,” Vickery said. “There’s students coming here to experience God and just to have fun and create friendships and stronger bonds to each other.”

Although Christa camps are faith-based, Vickery said, it’s “open to everybody. It’s non-denominational. There’s more to this place than God, although that’s definitely a perspective. But we have lots of other things here too, like horses and a rodeo.”

Miracle Ranch also draws campers from as far away as Japan.

For the 36th year, Miracle Ranch hosted a group of students from MeySen Academy in Sendai, Japan to practice English and learn first hand about American culture.

“They’re here in a six-week English immersion experience,” Chase said. “It’s awesome to watch them experience America for the first time here in summer camp.”

John Croman, vice principal in charge of overseas operations for MeySen Academy, explained that Sendai, which is 250 miles north of Tokyo, was ground zero for the earthquake and tsunami struck Japan a few years ago.

“We’ve been bringing our students to this camp for 36 summers. For just about every one of them, this is their first time in the U.S.,” he said.

“Here they get to meet and mix with children their own age. They’re here at camp for a week, then they stay in local homes and then the last couple of weeks they’re tourists in California.”

Miracle Ranch was selected as the Academy’s summer English camp when the school’s former principal “traveled all over the U.S. to find the right place for our kids. This was the very last place he came and it’s as if God seemed to arrange it that way. This place has all the things we feel are important.”

“This is one of the prettiest spots in the U. S. –– when it’s not raining,” he said laughing.

For 10-year-old Key Peninsula resident Kyler Farrell, camping at Miracle Ranch is part of his regular summer routine.

“I’ve come here every summer for about five or six years. It’s the best camp,” Kyler said. “It has everything you could possibly want. It’s amazing.

“And the Japanese kids are having lots of fun. Some of them don’t know a lot about this place and we have to help them with things. That makes us feel good to help them. We even have a translator in our cabin.”

The translator is 9-year-old Raylin Olson, of Bellevue. “I speak some Japanese because my mom’s Japanese. So I can help some of the other camper translate, which is kind of fun.

“It’s important because the Japanese kids can take home what they learn here.”

For all the campers, Miracle Ranch is a special place, said Chase, the Christa Vice President. “It’s a life-changing experience. The kids go away thinking this was the most awesome experience of their lives.”

For information visit christacamps.com.

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