The Lankas Lithuanian Heritage Summer Camp is dedicated to providing children of Lithuanian descent the opportunity to learn about Lithuanian culture and their heritage in a fun, educational, and community environment. We believe that if our community is to continue into the future, our children are the key. We incorporate history and culture into projects, games, and outdoor fun. We provide a setting for children to maintain friendships with other Lithuanian children, so that families will find that being involved with the Lithuanian American Community is a rich and rewarding experience. Traditional crafts, cooking, dancing, singing and history projects are all part of our activities, in a beautiful outdoor setting. The involvement of parents, as well as young adults and older members of our community, show the children that they are important in our community and that we value our heritage and their continuing part in it. The first Lithuanian American children’s camp in Western Washington was held almost 30 years ago. The dedication of our community to our children has enabled it to grow and our community to thrive.
A Brief History of the Lithuanian Camp Tradition in the Seattle Area:
By Danute Musteikis-Rankis
In the mid 1980’s, the 3 Baltic communities of the Seattle area decided it would be nice to gather for an end of summer picnic. The Latvians graciously offered their campground KURSA located in Shelton , Washington. For a few years the Lithuanians, Latvians, and Estonians would share a potluck picnic around Labor Day at Kursa.
Our Lithuanian community at the time was small, but strong, and growing, with about a dozen younger children. After a few times at these Baltic picnics, the Lithuanians decided to camp out as families for the weekend, usually 2 nights, the Latvians graciously providing KURSA for our use. From this grew the idea to have our own weeklong camp.
The first of these occurred in 1988, on Orcas Island at a private home with even little campers from toddlers in strollers up to the age of 10. The group spent one fantastic week together, singing, hiking, making handicrafts, and reveling in our shared Lithuanian heritage… The next year we formally started LANKAS CAMP at KURSA, for one glorious week in the latter part of August, rain or shine!
Many talented members of our community donated countless hours of hard work, and our little stovykla grew every year. Lithuanian history and cooking lessons were incorporated, in addtion to nature walks, swimming, singing, handicrafts, even kayaking and a horse would sometimes visit.
Years later, the Lankas tradition continues with original campers from the first years becoming camp directors. The camp has grown from under 12 to nearly 50 campers, from toddlers through youth in their late teens.
This continuation of our cultural heritage could not have happened without the many involved parents and friends who have been involved over the years. Whether from Lithuania, or as Lithuanian-Americans and extended families with various backgrounds, our core beliefs include promoting a joy of our shared cultural heritage through dance, song, language, handicrafts, and an abiding love of nature and spirit.