I felt apprehensive entering this summer, there was so much uncertainty and anxiety surrounding camps and COVID-19, it was challenging not knowing how it would all work out.
But when I saw the tears and hugs from our LITs (Leaders in Training) & JCs (Junior Counsellors) after having spent two full weeks at camp, I knew it was all worth it. I received a call from one parent who told me “I thought I had lost my son”, referring to the depression he sunk into during the winter, not leaving his room in their small two-bedroom apartment, spending all day on the computer. “We went on a bike ride yesterday” she said, “he was laughing and smiling, and we had a great conversation. It was perfect, thank you.”
It turns out he just needed camp. Like so many of the LITs & JCs that arrived this summer, he was quiet, withdrawn and anxious. It had been a tremendously difficult year, and the effects of the pandemic were showing. But after a few very fun and busy days at camp, the teens began to emerge, dust off their collective pain, and get back to being their best selves. In typical summers, our Leadership Program focuses heavily on building skills. But this year, the focus of those two precious weeks was fun, community and recovery. Campers swam, sang, played games, had friendly competitions, and relished in the fellowship surrounding them.
My highlights were the campfire every night, and the incredible food and community created at mealtimes (thanks in large part to our Assistant Director, Carol). Each of the LITs & JCs were given Fitbits so that we could stay in touch and have summer-long programming, even when not at camp. While at Scugog, every evenings’ campfire started with a “Fitbit check in” where campers proudly announced the steps they’d taken, their heart rate and other vital signs from the day. I often saw them running laps, playfully tackling each other to the ground, and bursting into fits of laughter as they tried to win the most steps. Once their check-in was complete, they would sing, play games, perform skits, read their bedtime novel and giggle into the night.
We also hosted an NLS (lifeguarding qualification) recertification course. It was awesome to have staff together for the day as they recertified their lifeguarding credentials (ensuring many of them can find, or continue to be employed this fall and winter).
This summer was extra special because we’ve been busy preparing for our brand new Nature School that launched this Monday! It’s been a lot of work getting it started, and we’re tremendously excited about the potential for this program. Revenue generated through our Nature School will help support summer camp programming and campers. We’re thrilled about this new initiative and look forward to keeping you updated on its success. If you’d like to learn more, please check out our website at: www.scugognatureschool.ca
When we were not hosting programming and preparing for Nature School, we were busy tending to the property: cleaning, painting and repairing. Typically, we have two or more spring cleaning/site maintenance weekends. Two years without this infusion of volunteers was showing, so staff were busy giving the facilities the love and care it needs.
Both the waterfront revitalization and basketball court construction that began last fall are nearing completion and I could not be more excited about how each is coming together. Our waterfront is now really beautiful and much more user friendly; and our basketball court, although not quite finished, was already used so much this summer by the LITs, JCs and staff. Basketball is a favourite sport in our community, so I’m really looking forward to seeing campers’ faces next summer when they’re able to play and compete on their new court.
Thanks to the Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF), we will be renovating our dining hall at the end of September. Most exciting is that we’re adding a geothermal heating and cooling system. I’m beyond thrilled to have facilities that can host year-round programming, and am delighted to know we will be doing it in an environmentally sustainable way. While a significant amount of this renovation will be paid for by OTF, we still have to raise funds for the geothermal system. If you’re interested in learning more about how you can help, please reach out – I’d love to share more about this exciting project!
For the second summer in a row, we partnered with Fairlawn Avenue United Church, to send letters to all of our 2019 campers. Each letter contained instructions and supplies needed to make a friendship bracelet. It was heartwarming to hear from parents, guardians and campers who reached out to say how much they loved the craft and letter, gushing about how they made them feel loved, special, and reminded them of camp.
A personal highlight continues to be our Mom’s Teatime. It gives moms a community to share their hopes, dreams, setbacks and concerns. I eagerly await our weekly chats that have genuinely turned into a time with good friends. Recently one of our mom’s burst into zoom to excitedly announce that she had secured her first Canadian job. She had completed an Office Administration course, and was searching for employment for the better part of the year. She often came onto the zoom calls frustrated, disheartened and in need of the encouragement and love from the other moms. A few months ago, she expressed that a consistent issue was a lack of Canadian references. Our Assistant Director, Carol, offered to write her a letter, and provide a phone reference when needed, to which she burst out crying, feeling both support and relief. When she recently exclaimed that she had secured an office admin position, everyone cheered, sharing in the collective joy of her success. “I have no one else to tell, you are my Canadian Family” she said, while wiping away her tears of joy.
Because of your generosity, it’s been a busy summer at Camp Scugog. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your support, especially during times as challenging as these.
Yours in camping,