Wednesday, June 22, 2011

An Open Letter to the Atheist Community.

To Michigan Atheists, PZ Myers, Greta Christina, Hemant Mehta, Jen McReight, JT Eberhard, Adam Lee, The Chaplain, Digital Cuttlefish, Matt Dillahunty, C.L. Hanson, Sikivu Hutchinson, Phil Ferguson, Jeff Duncan, Unknown (to me) Benefactor, and to all who have donated to Camp Quest:


Thank you for, your generosity, the giving freely of yourselves for those you do not know, perhaps will never know.

My wife, Miranda and I have been discussing sending our oldest child to Camp Quest for the past 2 years, since she was 8. Each year financial difficulties have prevented us from doing so. I had the paperwork for a campership for Camp Quest Ohio nearly completed, but we found it difficult to scrape together even the $100 deposit required. Prices increase, and wages stay the same. I don't share this for pity, but to inform of where we are right now.

A link was shared with me about 3 weeks ago. This link was a contest, for a campership to Camp Quest Michigan. The topic was "What can I do to improve the image of freethinkers/atheists in the world?". I passed this on to Charlotte, and here is what she wrote:

   "To improve the image of atheists and free thinkers, I can show people my better aspects, thus showing them that their stereotypes that people think of when they think of atheists and free thinkers are untrue. I could achieve this by being proud of who I am and of my talents. Then, I could live among others who think differently without becoming reclusive and antisocial.
   I should also judge people for who they are, not their faith or who others think they are. If I have them do the same of me, it could dramatically change how others think of us.

   If I do these things, then it would also show other atheists and free thinkers not to be afraid of themselves and to judge others for who they are. To many, it might seem like a kid like me would have no impact on the world at large. But even though I won't impact the entire planet directly, I can have an effect on a small group of people, who can affect a larger group, and so on and so on until everybody realizes that fighting over religion gets us nowhere but a dark, lifeless world destroyed by countless wars which were not worth fighting and completely avoidable. Which is definitely not worth it."

We were extremely proud of her essay. I can't say we were surprised, because this is how she thinks all the time. Miranda and I joked that it seemed like she used The Affirmation of Humanism as a crib sheet. I think this just shows how grounded she is in reality, and real issues. But I have gone on a slight tangent.

We were excited when she read the Email from Mr. Duncan, the director of Camp Quest Michigan, informing Charlotte that she had won. We knew that Camp Quest would be a phenomenal experience for her.

On Monday morning, June 20th, I spoke with Mr. Duncan about the campership. My heart nearly broke when he informed me that it would only cover half of the price of the camp. I informed him that I would have to discuss the issue with Miranda, and that she would not be home until late in the evening. I didn't discuss it with Charlotte at all.

Miranda got home around 9:30 and, after the kids were in bed, we talked. It was a difficult conversation. We were crushed by the fact that we couldn't afford to send Charlotte to Camp Quest. The next morning we had to break her heart as well.

Tuesday morning came, as Tuesdays often do. We sat in the living room and filled Charlotte in on our discussion the night before. She is a smart little girl. She understands our situation, even though it seems unfair at times. I think she took some small solace that she was STILL one of the essay winners. I still cried a little. I was loathe to speak with Jeff Duncan again, because that would put fact to the idea that Charlotte would not attend the camp.

I called him, and left a message. He called back a short time later, and Charlotte answered the phone. My heart broke again as SHE informed him of our situation, and our decision to not accept the campership because we could not afford the balance. She passed the phone to me, and the broken pieces of my heart sank, because our disappointment was about to be finalized. A wonderful, glorious amazing thing happened, though.

The previous night, Mr. Duncan informed me, during a 72 hour firefighting shift, his wife had brought him the mail. In that delivery was a check made out to Camp Quest Michigan. In the memo portion of that check made out to Camp Quest Michigan it said "for camperships". Charlotte was offered a full campership for her essay. I accepted without a thought. I am not sure that she can survive a week without electronics, and it will still be a challenge to get her from Columbus to Michigan, but I do look a bit more favorably towards that State Up North.

I followed the Camp Quest fundraising competition between Team PZ and Team Beat PZ with humor. I do not know for sure that any of the funds raised were used for Charlotte's campership. I do know, however, that without the assistance of those in the atheist community Charlotte would not have this opportunity. It's not just the opportunity for the camping, but also the opportunity to get involved in the community, and to get to know like minded peers.

From the bottom of my heart, the sub-cockle region even, I say thank you.


  1. Rich,

    It was our pleasure. I only wish we could do more for people like you and for Camp Quest.

    Charlotte sounds like an exceptional young woman, you and Miranda must be very proud. Tell Charlotte that I hope she has a great time, and tell her I'm jealous she won't be at Camp Quest Ohio where I'll be teaching kids how to do magic and sing. :P



  2. We are very proud of her, and very grateful that she now has this opportunity.

    Thanks again!

  3. Hi Rich,

    We have some counselors who are likely driving up through Columbus and can probably give Charlotte a ride to camp. Call the Camp Quest office at 614-571-5112, and we can work on getting it set up.

    I'm so happy that Charlotte will be joining us at Camp Quest this summer!

    Camp Quest Executive Director

  4. Rich, Miranda, Charlotte and Family,

    Welcome to the Camp Quest neighborhood in this amazing community of freethinkers! We are glad you're joining us.

    We consider ourselves very fortunate to be a part of, and to help build, Camp Quest. We get a lot from it, too.
    Fran (for the Weltes)