Sunset Lake Joins Children's Hospital in Long-term Partnership

April 01, 2004 | Kristiana Lang

"There are very few coincidences in life," says Craig Heinrich, pastor and Sunset Lake Camp director, reflecting on the revelation that came during a meeting at Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center in Seattle.

Stanley Stamm, pediatric cardiologist at Children's Hospital for 50 years, had been describing the origins of the Stanley Stamm Children's Hospital Camp.

"I had a young patient I nicknamed 'P.A.T.' Patterson," explained Stamm. "I called him that because the abbreviation for his heart condition matched his last name."

During one of his exams, Stamm told "Pat's" father about the summer camp he had started years before for his patients with heart and lung problems. He was looking for a new facility to host it.

Gary Patterson, then Sunset Lake director, immediately offered Stamm the use of Washington Conference's summer camp. That was in 1969, and Sunset Lake has been home to the Stanley Stamm Children's Hospital Camp ever since.

Some 10 years later, as the Montana Conference secretary, Patterson heard Heinrich give a speech as the Mt. Ellis Academy student association president. After his speech, Heinrich recalls that Patterson told him that he should look into the ministry.

"To have the secretary of the conference pull me, an 18-year-old kid, aside was pretty huge," recalls Heinrich. Patterson became a spiritual mentor to Heinrich.

In 1999, Heinrich became the Sunset Lake director, but it wasn't until the meeting at Children's Hospital in September 2003 that he learned of Patterson's role in establishing Stamm's camp at Sunset Lake. "Gary was influential in my life," says Heinrich, "and it is exciting to see his wider influence with both Sunset Lake and Children's Hospital."

"Sunset Lake has been an oasis for us and our kids," Stamm said. "Getting to go to summer camp is the highlight of the year for these kids and, for some, the highlight of their young lives." The benefit goes to their families as well, according to Stamm. "The parents get a break, and the kids get to experience the magic of summer camp," said Stamm.

Heinrich and Stamm are leading their two organizations in establishing a long-term agreement stemming from Sunset Lake's capital campaign to build a recreation center and swimming pool.

Children's Hospital has committed to raising more than $200,000 toward the swimming pool. Sunset Lake is establishing a 10-year rental rate and scheduled week for the Children's Hospital summer camp. They will also provide storage for a nominal rental fee.

"It is a beautiful summer camp—your organization has done such a wonderful job improving the facilities," said Stamm. "I want to continue holding our camp at Sunset Lake indefinitely because it's such a fit with our needs."

Because Sunset Lake is a ministry to bring people to the Lord, Heinrich is committed to continuing to work with Children's Hospital and other non-Adventist groups.

"It's wonderful to see Gary's influence come full circle," Heinich said. "God brought him into my life, and I'm excited to be involved in continuing and building on what he started 35 years ago."