I wish I could properly explain to you the joy I felt today. I woke up bright and early to make breakfast for the 7 staff we have on site as we welcomed, for the second day, 35 children to our first ever March Break camp. It’s been a longstanding dream to open our facilities to year-round programming, and this year, after building our roster of campers who attend Nature School, I’m thrilled to say we have hired (in addition to the two year-round nature school staff) three summer camp staff to support the 35 March Break Campers we have!
So, I’m writing to you today with joy – pure joy, to let you know that our year-round programming has really begun to take off. And, I am filled with optimism and excitement in anticipation of this year’s summer camp. I’m sure you’ve already guessed this, but it’s official, for the first time in two years, Camp Scugog’s doors will once again be opened to welcome children, youth and mothers affected by poverty to experience an incredible week at camp.
I’ve been daydreaming of camp reopening a lot lately, and in particular, the joy on the faces of campers and staff. When they get their first bullseye, successfully tip a canoe, taste their first smore, and sing at the top of their lungs. Camp is a place where enchanting delight is found around every corner. I know that as I walk through the dining hall during meals, I’ll hear the buzz of excitement as campers share their day’s events.
I’m excited to see the moms from our mom’s and kids camp. A group of us have consistently stayed in touch during the pandemic with mom’s tea time, and we’ve been getting more and more excited to see each other again. As you’re all too aware, the past few years have been isolating, lonely and hard – especially for some of the families we serve. It’s going to be so good to share in the happiness of simply being together in community with people who care.
When the staff and campers arrive on site, they are going to be blown away. We’ve renovated our boathouse, excavated and landscaped our waterfront, built a state of the art basketball court, and now our farmhouse (dining hall) renovations are almost complete. As I type this, the geothermal heating and cooling system is being installed. Which brings me to another source of joy: as we grow and renovate, we’re putting a real focus on environmental sustainability.
To that end, in just a few short months, we’ll begin to plant our garden for the second year in a row. It’s a sizable plot, about 20×30 feet, and I look forward to campers collecting herbs throughout the summer, and our Nature School harvesting vegetables in the fall. It’s all part of our effort to ensure children learn about their role in creating a healthy planet, and embracing our role as a summer camp who builds up and influences future generations.
Camper registrations for the summer are quickly coming in, our leadership program is filling up, and the senior staff team has fallen nicely into place. I’m excited to share that we’re adding Mental Health First Aid to our list of qualifications acquired during staff training this summer. For years, we’ve ensured all staff have their standard first aid, canoeing, kayaking and many have swimming qualifications. Now, more than ever, it’s important that staff have an understanding of how to navigate conversations about mental health, and how to recognize when someone is in crisis. The population we serve tends to have higher rates of mental health challenges, and this year it’s particularly important that we are able to provide support. The pandemic has served as a brutal and relentless reminder of inequality. It has negatively affected our campers more than others. Our job, in large part, will be helping pick campers and staff back up. Help them socialize, make friends, challenge themselves, and leave camp with a little more confidence than when they arrived.
This summer will certainly have its challenges, we need to intentionally rebuild culture, and help breathe life back into some of the children and families who have been crushed by the weighty consequences of the pandemic. This is an opportunity to be even more intentional about how we create inclusive, thoughtful spaces for all campers, so that every child who steps on site knows they have value.
If you’d like to contribute to this summer’s success, you can make a donation here. We’re also hosting our annual Spring Cleaning Day on May 7th. It’s a wonderful opportunity to see the site, and help us open for the summer (there is lots of sweeping, vacuuming, painting, mopping and raking to be done!). If you’re interested in joining the fun, you can register here.
I’m beyond excited for the coming months, and in large part, have you to thank. Donors and volunteers like you have continued to be so generous with time, talents and financial donations over the past two years, that we’ve been able to emerge from the pandemic on solid footing, ready to bring joy to kids who need it most.
Thank you again,