Founder of Camp Cascadia has inspired generations of local youth

EVERETT — Esther McChesney remembers the time she met a grown man at a gathering.

“This is Miss Esther,” he said. “She taught me to respect the flag at Camp Cascadia.”

McChesney, 95, of Everett, has taught many things to many kids since she started the Christian day camp 41 years ago. That was when her pastor at Cascade View Presbyterian Church said he wanted to start a vacation Bible school for kids.

A passionate camper, McChesney proposed a day camp instead.

It’s no ordinary day camp, either.

Each year, kids learn about a different country with its challenges and culture. This week the campers “visited” Bolivia.

The camp is for kids entering first through eighth grades, with about 55 participants each year.

Many come back year after year.

When they grow up, they come back to help.

“In a way, she was ahead of her time in understanding the nature of a global community,” said the Rev. Bob Higgins, the church’s current pastor.

McChesney looks back on decades of experience working with kids. She worked at the Denny Youth Center for 23 years and once served as director of Camp Killoqua.

She has seen many kids turn around in her years at Denny.

When her husband died, 16 of them came to the funeral, McChesney said recently, speaking in the light-filled kitchen of her home on Beverly Lane.

“People couldn’t understand how I could like working (at Denny), but I did,” she said.

She still goes to Camp Cascadia every summer to spend time with the kids. She worries she can’t help as much as she did when she was younger. But she loves it just as much as she did 41 years ago.

“I love the kids. They just cuddle up, and that’s all I care about,” she said.

Katya Yefimova: 425-339-3452, kyefimova@heraldnet.com

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