A Brief History of Surprise Lake Camp
Surprise Lake Camp, located 17km east of Edson, was founded by the Rev. James Norquay and his wife Marg way back in 1951. They saw a need and the opportunity to give kids, young and old, a spiritual perspective in a natural environment with an emphasis on cooperation, leadership, stewardship and personal growth.
It started out with tents and several rustic buildings that served as the cookhouse and lodging for the cooking staff. SLC was affiliated and adhered to United Church doctrine with it’s Christian Education programming. Over the years, countless hours of volunteer labor, fund raising, donations and support from local businesses and various UC congregations, turned the vision of a camp into reality.
Where the camp is today has been a result of dedicated people understanding the vision, seeing what was needed and stepping in to do their part. In the many roles to be filled, as staff, board members, cooks, maintenance people, chore boys, councillors, donors and of course, campers, all have contributed in their own way to the ongoing life and history of the camp.
Summer camps continued in the SLC way until 2017.
The Surprise Lake Society (SLS): The SLS, a registered non-profit charitable society, was incorporated back in 1951 to obtain a Recreational lease on Sang (Surprise) Lake and to establish and operate a children’s summer camps in a semi-wilderness environment. It worked in conjunction with various area United Church congregations. Countless hours of board meetings, work weekends, fund raising, and often serving as camp staff were the norm for many SLS board members. Their commitment, vision and guidance over the years helped create a facility where lives were changed and life long friends and lasting memories were made. The Surprise Lake Society has and will always be managed by volunteers. As such, volunteers have seasons in their lives where they can be involved. Like many other volunteer organizations, the SLS board changes with the interest and commitment of its members.
In 2017, a number of issues brought the SLS board to a fork in the road. Declining enrolment, a declining funding base, aging facilities, staffing challenges, low volunteer involvement and individual burnout were the reality. Due to declining enrolment, low volunteer engagement and maintenance issues, the SLS executive had the choice to either close the camp or choose a different direction. It was a unanimous decision to try something new. It was decided to change the overall format from a programmed kids summer camp to a group rental facility for use by the general public with the emphasis on community, cultural and artistic gatherings.
The following years have been dedicated to extensive maintenance on the land and buildings, and on volunteer recruitment. The site is now available for private rentals and the society puts on events like tie-dye workshops, meditation retreats, mushroom foraging, musical events and gold panning instruction. In 2019, an alumni-based company rented the site and put on a week-long camp for children. It was wildly successful and full of traditional camp shenanigans. We hope to offer similar programming in the future.
This year marks 70 years of fun on the shores of Sang Lake! Check out our calendar for fun activities for the whole family.