Meaningful relationships are built at camp every week.

Founded in the summer of 1971, Cedarkirk, a local year-round Presbyterian camp and conference center, is celebrating its 50th anniversary. It is a place apart where individuals and groups can experience spiritual growth and renewal as well as faith-building fun, worship and exciting activities in 170 acres of woodlands, wetlands and uplands.

“We see our mission as giving people a place where they can step out of the busyness and stress and the routines of their everyday life and spend some time in the woods building community and drawing close to God,” said Matthew Shick, executive director of Cedarkirk.

According to its website, “Our facilities are used for retreats, meetings, conferences, leadership training, camping, outdoor experiences and more. We serve a variety of church-related groups, family reunions, public and private schools, community service agencies and nonprofit organizations.”

Cedarkirk is open, but only for small groups, and it is requiring social distancing and masks when in groups, among other safety procedures. Cedarkirk could not offer summer camp in 2020, but it is glad to welcome guests back this year, though at 50 percent capacity.

Cedarkirk has several camp programs for different groups, including those in first to 12th grade, families and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The programs have a variety of activities, which can include Bible study, worshiping together, leadership training, kayaking, campfires, arts and crafts, field games, swimming, archery and more.

Shick said that, as a former camper of Cedarkirk, “I learned my faith at church, but I learned to live it at Cedarkirk, and so I think, for me, one of the most special things [about Cedarkirk] is finding out how to put into practice what it is that we believe.”

He also thinks the camp is special because, as a camper, he lived alongside others from an entirely different socioeconomic bracket, letting him understand the differences in their lives, but also find many commonalities and connect with them, and Shick is happy to see that play out every week at summer camp.

For the future, Cedarkirk is campaigning to raise $4 million for a new office wing, new residential building and new dining hall, which will have more space and better accessibility.

Cedarkirk is located at 1920 Streetman Dr. in Lithia on the Alafia River. For more information, call 685-4224 or visit, or

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Taylor Wells is a relatively recently hired news reporter for the Osprey Observer, having been with the paper only since October 8, 2018. Aside from writing articles, he helps edit and upload them to the Osprey Observer site, and is always available to help other staff members in his spare time. He graduated from Saint Leo University with a bachelor’s degree in professional writing and lives in Valrico.