Skyview Ranch survives ‘WW Tree,’ still facing challenges

Skyview Ranch survives ‘WW Tree,’ still facing challenges

The Pioneer Camp at Skyview Ranch suffered major damage, and the 175-acre camp was estimated to have lost more than 1,200 trees.


With about 80 fourth to sixth graders enjoying the first day of summer camp at Skyview Ranch in Millersburg on June 14, a great day of enjoying everything the camp has to offer turned into a genuine horror story, when the derecho storm altered the camp’s plans in a big way.

Early Tuesday morning, the campers were awoken and scurried to safety, where — along with singing camp songs and no small amount of prayer — they hunkered down and waitied out the storm that rolled through at midnight and 4 a.m., with close to 100-mile-per-hour winds hammering the 175-acre camp.

With everyone safe, staff members were greeted by an eerie picture when they ventured out to assess the damages. The winding camp driveway was littered with trees and debris. Further investigation revealed the same grotesque picture on the main road leading to state Route 39.

“It didn’t take long for us to realize what we were up against. We literally had to cut our way out to safety to get the kids to their parents and send them home,” said Jon Casbolm, Skyview Ranch director. “We’re not talking a few trees, we’re talking a mountain of trees. Another guy and I climbed through the trees just to see how far we had to go, and it was a good half-mile.”

Two separate teams went to opposite ends of the problem and started cutting toward the middle. They somehow cleared the road enough to get passenger vans donated by Alpine Bible Church in. By Tuesday night, campers were herded into the vans and escorted to their parents at Faith Bible Church.

Casbolm said the camp had been building momentum before the storm came crashing down around them. This was a major set-back.

However, the show must go on, and thanks to the hard work of his staff and countless volunteers, somehow the mess was cleaned up. The middle school campers who came in for the week of camp June 20-24 may not have given the storm a second thought, such was the clean-up effort.

“Our counselors did a phenomenal job to keep everyone calm and safe until we could get them out,” Casbolm said. “I’m pleased with how we responded to disaster, both our staff and the many volunteers that allowed us to welcome a whole new set of campers as planned.”

As for the financial burden the camp now faces, that remains to be determined.

“It’s hard to really tell right now what the total damages might look like, but I do know this,” Casbolm said. “With the amount of damage to our property, we had hundreds and hundreds of trees come down, and tree removal is only covered to $5,000. I told them I spent that amount in about five minutes.

“But the reality is, with any disaster of this magnitude, we aren’t going to be made whole by insurance,” Casbolm said. “Not even close. There are still going to be overwhelming financial needs.”

Casbolm said that over the past several years, God has kept the camp staff aware that they need to depend on him for support. In 2019, the main lodge burned to the ground. Then came the pandemic years that brought the camp to a standstill. Now, this storm adds another page to the saga of challenges, but Casbolm said the staff remains upbeat and even more dedicated to serving the camp’s purpose of touching the lives of young people in positive ways.

He said that while they are extremely grateful for the many who volunteered to clean up, far fewer people tend to step up financially after a hardship like this. He said they don’t want to come across as disingenuous.

“Nobody knows what tomorrow holds, and it is difficult to give above and beyond sometimes, but we believe we are doing important work here, and we are impacting our community, churches all over Ohio and the lives of these young people,” Casbolm said. “We really need the financial support right now. We want to be genuine in our appeal for finances. We don’t want to fabricate things or guilt people into giving. We want to be a ministry where people can trust that when we say we need help, we really need help and it’s a genuine need. We have so enjoyed building relationship with many from our community and appreciate everyone who has helped sustain our efforts.

“God has sustained us through trials before and we fully expect that he will do it again through this experience,” Casbolm continued. “We want to continue to be a blessing to our community. We as a staff are trying to find the joy we face during this trial, and ultimately, this is about bringing God glory, and we trust the Lord will bring us through it and we couldn’t ask for a better community to help us walk through this trial.”

The staff hasn’t lost its collective sense of humor over the storm damage. To reach out to the public in a fundraising effort, they had T-shirts made that feature a WW and a trio of pine trees across the chest, with their name below.

“My staff started calling this World War Tree,” Casbolm said with a laugh. “So, we made a limited-edition World War Tree T-shirt to raise funds.”

Shirts can be ordered by located Skyview Ranch on Facebook, where there is a link to order.

If people feel led to give financially, they can do so at www.skyviewranch.or/give.

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