Parent FAQ

Since 1954, Camp Olson has been Sharing the Spirit of the Northwoods with countless youth and leaders through quality camping programs. Below are answers to some frequently asked questions from parents.

Jump to sections below: Program | Registration | Health & Safety | General Camp


The answer is different for everyone, which is one reason camp is so great – it can cater to just about every type of person!

Summer camp provides children with many opportunities for growth like setting and attaining goals, being away from home and gaining independence, trying new things and building confidence, or living with peers and learning cooperation, respect, and trustworthiness.

Summer camps are an environment specifically suited to provide children with a unique and beneficial experience they won’t find anywhere else. It’s a place that ensures children leave with new friends and role models, new life skills, new memories that will last a lifetime, new appreciation for nature and the world around them, and a new view of themselves.

We offer programming for all ages! Our Day Camp is offered to ages 5-11 and our Overnight Camps (ranging from 4 days to 4 weeks) is offered to ages 7-17. We also offer a family camp, open to any age!

Each morning, campers will participate in various program areas with their cabinmates, and have independence to choose afternoon activities, such as:

  • Sailing
  • Horseback Riding
  • Arts & Crafts
  • Mountain Biking
  • Fishing
  • Swimming
  • Paddle Sports
  • Shooting Sports
  • And more!

At Camp Olson YMCA, we want to ensure that each of our traditional campers has the opportunity to experience the outdoors. Each cabin has a designated overnight and canoe/hike that will become more challenging through cabin years as campers grow older. Our youngest campers, Pathfinders, will enjoy a cookout over a fire at the Trips Center on the shore of Cooper Lake. Our younger Discovery campers enjoy an overnight with their cabinmates at one of our on-site camps located a short distance from our Trips Center which can be reached by foot or canoe on Cooper Lake. Our older Discovery campers will enjoy a bit more of an adventure, as they paddle across Cooper Lake and hike a short distance to a set of private lakes called the Shurds, where they will again paddle to a campsite amidst the loons and beavers.

We have a number of other overnight trip options away from camp with our Leadership Development Program and Superior Sailing Trip.

At Camp Olson, we strongly feel that our ability to share the Spirit of the Northwoods is enhanced by an experience free of the distractions of electronic devices. It is an excellent exercise for a child to be without their cell phone for a week. It encourages personal interaction and immerses your child in the beautiful natural surroundings and people we have here at Camp Olson. Electronic devices like cell phones or things that can connect to the internet are collected at the beginning of the week and kept safely in the management office. They will get their devices returned on the Sunday of their departure day.

Weekends are a relaxing 24 hours for campers to enjoy camp with a smaller group.They will have 2-3 counselors as well as a management staff supervise them all weekend. All meals will be provided as well as snacks. Throughout the weekend we will have a nurse on duty 24 hours to help with medications and camper needs. Your child will get to enjoy selected programming like swimming, sailing , craft shop etc. Campers are allotted time with their electronic devices to contact family and friends. After dinner, there are options for more fun and relaxation, such as a game night, movie and popcorn, or night hike.


Yes, we do offer financial assistance. Please fill out an application on the Scholarship Page to see what you qualify for.

For more scholarship questions, email

Cancel four weeks in advance to receive a full refund less the deposit. We will refund in full for illness or medical issues with a doctor’s note.

We’ve learned that campers actually settle in much more easily and get more out of camp when they are not in the same cabin with a best friend from home. You’ll have tons of opportunities to be with your friend, including choosing the same activities and spending free time together.

Still, we make our best effort to accommodate cabin mate requests, though we cannot guarantee your camper will be with a friend or family member as we use a number of criteria to group campers. Typically we try to separate cabins by program type (i.e. Discovery, Pathfinder, Sailing, Horseback Riding, etc.) and age (ideally a cabin’s age range will be within 1-2 years or grade level difference). Special circumstances and other factors are also considered.

To make a request, please do so in your camp forms by logging into your Parent Account.

The deposit of $200 is due upon registration (for one-week sessions). The entire balance is due four weeks before the start of your camper’s session. Please contact our office for information on payment plans.

Health & Safety

Our Health Care Staff are available 24 hours a day to help with all health related issues your camper may encounter while at camp. In addition, the majority of our staff are certified by the Red Cross in CPR, First Aid and Lifeguarding.

Our trained and experienced Health Care Staff pass out all medications for our campers.

Click here to view more about Health & Safety at Camp. 

Camp Olson Management are constantly monitoring local weather conditions. In the event of a severe weather warning, all campers and staff report to our Severe Weather Shelters contained beneath our Health Lodge and Ranch house. All parents will receive an email notification in the event that we do seek shelter, assuring you that all are well and accounted for.

Child psychologist, Chris Thurber states that “most children are ready to spend time away from camp home by the time they’re seven. But, as with so much of parenting, recognizing your child’s individual needs and developmental readiness is key to the experience.” Ask yourself these questions: Has your child ever spent any time away from you? Slept at a friend’s house or grandparents? Does your child like to make new friends or try new things? Is your child able to follow instructions? Do they like group activities? Are they able to meet personal needs such as bathing, toileting, diet management, dressing, etc.? If you answered YES to the majority of these questions, chances are they are ready!

To be eligible to attend Camp, a camper must meet the minimum age requirements for that program. All campers must be able to independently use the bathroom and change into swim attire without assistance from a counselor. Campers are expected to participate safely and appropriately within a 1:8 ratio of staff to campers and a typical group size of 8-10. We expect all campers and staff to contribute to a safe and respectful camp environment for all.

Our Chef and kitchen staff provide 3 square, tasty and nutritious meals each day. Favorites include Taco bar, BBQ chicken, and pizza! Cereal, fruit, and yogurt are always available in addition to breakfast. Lunch and supper are always accompanied by a salad bar and fresh veggies.

We are well versed in dealing with a range of food allergies and dietary restrictions. All campers who attend must disclose dietary issues on the mandatory health forms we provide to you. Our kitchen staff are very sensitive to dietary needs and continually strive to offer ample alternatives to Gluten-free, lactose intolerant, vegetarian and religious-oriented diets. We have a great deal of experience dealing with severe dietary allergies like peanut/tree nut allergies and more.

Our staff undergo an extensive application and screening process, including reference checks, interviews, background checks, and a search of the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender registry before hiring. Staff participate in a one-week training that includes topics on homesickness, bullying, camper health and hygiene, sexual abuse prevention, behavior management, mental health, and trauma-informed practices. We also have many staff certified in Lifeguarding, First Aid, CPR, and Wilderness First Aid. Full-time management staff, including a clinical mental health professional, live onsite and are available 24 hours a day to oversee all camp operations and monitor our camp community.

Yes. Your child should provide their own pull-ups, and they can change into that at night however they are comfortable. Some children keep them in their suitcases and change into them in the bathroom when brushing their teeth. Other children can keep their pull-ups in the health lodge and change into their pull-ups in their private bathroom. We often urge children to wake up a staff member and a buddy in case of a late-night bathroom visit. If they have an accident, our staff follow a specific protocol for the child’s privacy and wash their bedding in the health lodge.

As a part of Camp Olson’s mission, we aim to provide services for ALL and provide an environment that is free from discrimination and devoid of violence, intimidation, and/or harassment based on race, creed, color, national origin, faith, gender identity, sexual orientation, or disability.

We are fortunate to have a rich history of being a welcoming community centered on our core values. However, we also recognize that many families have not always had access to camp or felt included once they experience camp. Our priority is to increase access to Camp Olson for historically marginalized groups at camp and to ensure that all young people feel a sense of belonging at camp, where they can be proud of who they are.

Our commitment to you:

  • Designing programs that work for all members of our community
  • Prioritizing impartiality and fairness in policies, procedures, and distribution of resources
  • Clearly understanding and defining the limitations of our organization
  • Taking action to remove barriers that prevent full engagement in our programs
  • Affirming the various perspectives that enrich our collective experiences
  • Centering relationship-building that honors each person’s identity
  • Valuing every individual’s unique contributions as we learn and grow together

Please view our Equity & Inclusion page for more information.

Camp Olson strives to create programming to be enjoyed by as many children as possible. In everything we do, health and safety are our top priorities. As such we need to recognize the limitations of our facility, program and staff.

All children must be able to do that following at a developmentally appropriate level for their age:

  • Communicate needs and concerns with others at a conversational level of English
  • Understand and comply with directions given by staff
  • Refrain from unsafe or harmful behaviors towards themselves and others including self harm
  • Identify and avoid safety risks
  • Feel comfortable living in a rustic environment (no air conditioning, insects/animals, etc)
  • Able to maneuver rough terrain and distances
  • Manage the sensory stimulation of a frequently large, loud, and energetic group environment (especially during dining hall meal time)
  • Assume responsibility of personal hygiene
  • Manage camp schedule and independent free time
  • Demonstrate age-appropriate social and emotional skills in managing personal boundaries, relationships, communication, stress, and conflict.
  • Use the bathroom and change clothes independently

General Camp

Our long time mission of “For All” encourages and welcomes campers and staff from all backgrounds. Our purpose is not to change or instill upon campers any particular faith or belief. Our goal is to make every person feel comfortable while still including the traditions and values of the YMCA: caring, honesty, respect, and responsibility.

Grace is sung before each meal and we start and end the day with an inspirational word or phrase.

Camp Olson is accredited by the American Camp Association, meaning we have undergone a thorough review (300 standards) of our operation- from staff qualifications to emergency management. To learn more about what it means to be ACA accredited, check out the ACA’s website.

Each overnight camp session begins on Sunday and ends on Saturday. If you are driving to camp to drop off our camper, please plan to arrive between 2:00pm and 3:30pm on Sunday afternoon. Pickup up is Saturday morning between 8:30 am and 9:30am. We also offer bus transportation from Rochester, Owatonna, Edina, St. Cloud and Brainerd.

Day camp runs 9:00am to 4:00pm Monday through Friday.

No. Though, we do have a camp store (Trading Post) for the purchase of snacks and beverages as well as camp souvenirs like t-shirts, hats, water bottles, and other items. If you would like your camper to have funds in their store account, payment can be made online, or in-person using a credit card, cash, or check. We typically recommend $30 for a week of camp, which would include 2 daily snacks and one souvenir item, like a shirt or water bottle. Feel free to visit our website store to see what we have to offer.

Campers who are with us for three weeks or more are allowed laundry privileges while at camp. Please call our main office for special circumstances.
The best way for a parent to communicate is by mail or email. A good idea is to pre-send a few encouraging letters or postcards to your child ahead of time (it normally takes up to 3 days for mail to reach Camp Olson). Label which days you’d like the letters delivered, and we’ll see to it that they receive them. Many parents also pre-address and post letters or postcards home to encourage their camper to write home. You can send emails and view photos through your online CampInTouch account. There is a fee required to use the email service and to order photos, but all parents can login for free to view the daily photo uploads. All emails are printed daily and delivered. Photo or images you add to emails will only be printed in black & white.

Our address for packages and letters are as follows:
‘Camper Name’
Camp Olson YMCA
PO Box 118
Longville, MN 56655

SpeeDee, UPS, FedEx:
‘Camper Name’
Camp Olson YMCA
4160 Little Boy Rd NE
Longville, MN 56655

We are happy to provide parent referrals, offer tours, and answer questions anytime. Contact us to request more information.