Camp Champions earns international accolade



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Camp Counselor Noah Dexter introduces campers to the library inside The Hearth, the creative arts center at Camp Champions. The camp was named placed in the top 60 summer camps in North America and first among 14 traditional camps honored by the Canadian travel website Flight Network. Read about it in the Tuesday, July 18, edition of The Highlander. See more scenes of camp life on the Facebook Page for The-Highlander.

By Glynis Crawford Smith

The Highlander

The rest of the world seems to be catching on to what local summer camp enthusiasts have know for some time about Camp Champions near Highland Haven.

When it was founded in 1967, Camp Champions drew headlines over sports greats founders Hondo Crouch, Darrell K. Royal, Horton Nesrsta, and Pete Runnels. The focus of what was conceived as an all-boys camp widened when girls invaded in 1970. Now, you could say it offers a wide-angle view.

Steve (Camp Geek) and Susie Baskin (Camp Mom) bought the camp in 1995, leaving behind his career as an investment banker and investing, instead, in the lives of young people and rearing four children of their own.

Since then, Steve was recognized with American Camp Association (ACA) National Service Award in 2009. Susie has serve the last three years on 13-person board to set state standards for child care in the out-of-school setting.

Camp Champions was on the Austin Magazine list of top camp picks for the fourth time this year.

This month, it was named in the top 60 summer camps in North America and first among 14 traditional camps honored.

Flight Network is a Canadian online travel website that prides itself in research of recommendations it makes to travelers. It calls it's summer picks “camps, which are working to change the way children, teenagers — and even adults — empower themselves, and their futures.”

“After months of in-depth research and interviews, Flight Network is thrilled to present our 2017 list of North America’s top 60 summer camps,” said the announcement. “These select few camps beat out hundreds of contenders, in large part thanks to their originality, overall mission, and undeniable offerings.”

Most of the camps in the offering were highly specialized but Camp Champions tries to appeal to every interest a camper from anywhere might pursue. Campers come from around the world and counselors represent every continent on the globe except Antartica.

The camp proudly lists such former campers as NFL star Drew Brees, computer innovator Michael Dell and his wife Susan, visual artist Micah Nelson, musician/DJ Lucas Secon and singer/songwriters Lisa Loeb, Aaron Watson, Django Walker.

That lead to one of the camp's most innovative new additions: The Hearth.

“We have campers who are incredibly athletic, incredibly musical and very academic, who cherish quiet time,” said Susie. “So this performing arts center was designed to celebrate everybody's interests.”

The Baskins turned to Julia Webber Architecture in Austin for “whimsicality” in the two-story, 4,000-square-foot facility.

“We wanted to evoke creativity,” said Susie. “In some ways it is almost like a tree house. 'Heart' and 'Earth' are in it's name.”

Inside are open-air studios where ceramic art and woodworking are created. Painting and drawing are taught by Karen L. Maness, the principal instructor of scenic art and figurative painting for The University of Texas at Austin Department of Theatre and Dance and the scenic art supervisor at Texas Performing Arts. One entire workspace is dedicated to Lego,  construction.

“Not only is art created art in The Hearth, it is itself art,” said Susie. “The second floor has an open-air display for large public art.”

The Hearth has a drama performing arts department and a music department with a camp band. Brad Offutt of heart & Soul Yoga in Marble Falls teaches yoga there.

One room, where bookshelves line the walls is dedicated to reading.

“It is dedicated to my brother-in-law devoted to my brother in law, Jefferson Jones “JJ” Baskin (1966 – 2015), who was president of Austin Library Association. We built this library as a tribute to him and a way to remember how he loved books.

“The cool reading nooks around the room are culverts that look out on to the camp.”

“It is often amazing to me,” Susie added, “how even most hyperactive campers find it calming to read in down time.”

Camp Champions is located behind a giant cast-iron entry in the shape of a riding spur off Burnet County Road 125, the road that becomes Highland Drive inside the City of Highland Haven. Learn more about its programs at the website

To read about all 60 camps recognized by, visit

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