Camp Kitchikewana would not be the camp that it is today without the generous support of the “Friends of Kitchi” over the years. You can help support by donating to our annual campaign to help send kids to camp, our capital campaign to help refurbish or update camp buildings or equipment or you can support our camp endowment campaign to secure the camp’s stability for years to come. You can donate online today HERE for more information please do not hesitate to contact us by email or 705-330-0378 x651. Thank you for your support.
As Camp Kitchikewana has been in operation since 1919 we take pride in our rich history and tradition. With over 100 years of camp under our belt “Kitchi” has touched thousands of campers, staff, volunteers, parents, family, donors and friends over the years. We call our alumni the “Friends of Kitchi” as so many folks are connected the camp in many different ways.
Each year we have a number of events to help the “Friends of Kitchi” stay connected with the camp and their “Kitchi Friends.”
If you are not currently connected with us please sign up to the “Friends of Kitchi” email list. We will let you know of future alumni events, opportunities to support the camp, and share camp stories.
For the last (almost) two years, being a part of the YMCA Camp Kitchikewana directing team has taught me more about community and fellowship than any other organization I’ve had the pleasure of working with. It was the first year for three of us in full-time camping positions: my first year as Director, Emma’s first year as Assistant Director, and Gord’s first year as General Manager of Camping. The Kitchikewana community did two things: it never made us feel like outsiders, and it never left us with questions unanswered. With 100 years of history, there is a lot to know about the camp; sending a quick email to an alumnus never left us without generous, and fulsome responses. We are incredibly grateful for the Camp Kitchikewana community in guiding our transitions into our respective roles.
In 2019, a lot of things happened: there was a friendly fox (more on this later), there were high water levels, and there were brilliant counsellors. We had a huge win in our annual baseball game against Camp Queen Elizabeth, our neighbours on Beausoleil Island. Campers and staff performed at “Kitchistock”, our Woodstock inspired Kitchikewana Music Festival. The Midland Penetanguishine District Builder’s Association helped repair docks and repair the washstand in the Treasure Section. We are so grateful for their continued commitment to Camp Kitchikewana. Our Family Camp volleyball game got moved from its spot on the Deach to the Baseball diamond due to the high water levels. Hopefully our beloved beaches will return this year! We welcomed 618 summer campers, whose stays ranged from 1 week to 4 weeks. We hosted 53 school groups who chose Kitchikewana as the location for a class trip. We had 31 generous volunteers give their time and help to us over the season. We welcomed 430 alumni and friends to camp for the incredible 100th Anniversary Celebration.
It is hard to put into words just how special this milestone year at Camp Kitchikewana has been. Hopefully the following pieces will help; enjoy the collection of stories and memories in this winter’s Soup Strainer. It has been a privilege to work as Director during the 100th Anniversary – thanks, and I hope to see you on Kitchikewana Sands sometime soon.
Director – 2019 – present
Assistant director – 2018
Matt Ladner served as the 100th Anniversary Event Coordinator. The entire event and lead-up would not have been possible without Matt’s strong leadership, dedication, and attention to detail. Here, Matt shares his reflections on the event:
Well it’s been nearly four months since we gathered at Camp Kitchikewana to celebrate the first 100 years of YMCA camping on Beausoleil.
For the nearly 450 alumni who gathered in person during the weekend of September 6-8th, 2019 it was a magical weekend indeed.
I had the honour and privilege of being involved in the planning and organization of the weekend with a wonderful team of dedicated volunteers, camp staff and YMCA employees.
We began working on the initial planning for the 100th Anniversary in late 2014 and quickly determined that a series of decade reunions in the four Septembers leading up to 2019 would be a great way to gather momentum as we headed towards the 100th Celebration.
Having had an opportunity to participate in 3 of those weekends, in addition to the 100th Anniversary, it reinforced what I already knew about Kitchikewana campers – regardless of what era you attended camp, we all share a sacred bond with the land, the camp and its many traditions.
I thought it was apropos that the formal remarks make at the 100th event reflected the strong partnership between Parks Canada and the camp, and acknowledged the importance of the land to the Indigenous communities on whose traditional lands the camp is located.
Some highlights of the weekend for me included: reconnecting with old friends, listening to stories of Kitchikewana campers being back on site for the first time in 6 decades, watching the Miss Midland unload generations of family and friends, the Friday night campfire and the music that filtered throughout the entire event.
For me though, the two things that stood out above all else were the Saturday night “campfire” and the Sunday Gathering (formerly Chapel). Reflecting back on those moments, it’s hard not to be moved to tears; the absolute talent, intelligence, spirituality and connectedness of the alumni certainly shone through.
I wonder if Gary Bard ever envisioned how prophetic the words, “everyday people just don’t understand”, would become the day he wrote our beloved camp song in the 1970s, as nearly 300 alumni sang their hearts out on the evening of September 7th, 2019 during a moment that clearly no one wanted to end. For a few moments I’m certain we were all transported back to our teens, the decades blended into one moment, and the love for the place and each other was overwhelming.
In closing, I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge at least a few of the many, many volunteers who made the weekend possible. We had over 60 volunteers who made the event a success by offering their time in advance, during and following the weekend.
For those of you who were lucky enough to attend the weekend you will no doubt have noticed how great the camp looked, the collection of memorabilia around the site, the personalized photos on each cabin door. The addition of the “party tent”, the relocation of the fire pit, the guided tours of the camp, the volunteer pig roasters. The people who registered you, who welcomed you and of course the staff who worked behind the scenes to keep the food coming and the washrooms and sites clean. A huge collective thank you.
To the volunteer committee who worked together for the 5 years leading up to the event; I miss our regular excuses to have meetings and phone calls, it was a pleasure to work together with each and every one of you; Vinny Zacca, Jamie Howchin, Carole Stallworthy (Apsey), Anne Coleman, Dylan Lalande, Ben Rabinovich, Cam Norman, Jennie Meeker, Sue Diefenbaker (Auld) and Tina Rankin.
To the team of volunteers who helped the week leading up to, during and afterwards – thank you, there are too many to name but you know who you are!
Finally, I would like to acknowledge three wonderful new members of our Kitchikewana family, without whom this event would not have happened;
Gord Dunlop, in his first year as the General Manager of Camping at the YMCA – steadying, hardworking, supportive and passionate about his staff and campers.
Emma Langlois, in her first year as the Assistant Director – funny, smart, talented and wicked with a spreadsheet.
Julia Fulton, in her first year as the Director – dedicated, intelligent, determined and what a voice!
It can’t be understated just how much extra effort was involved for these three in order to pull off the logistics of the largest alumni event in Kitchikewana history! Even more amazing was it all coincided with running spring and summer camp in their first year, a huge congratulations!
With love and gratitude,
Kitchikewana Camper 80-87
Kitchikewana Counsellor 88-90
Kitchikewana Staff 91-94
Alumni Advisory Committee – 2000-2002, 2012-Present
Thank you to our supporters!
Thank you to BigRedWorks Inc. for their generosity in our 100th Anniversary Celebration! Scott, Todd, and the team worked hard all weekend, and in the week leading up, to transport and deliver all of the luggage, as well as help transport a great deal of equipment from the mainland to Beausoleil for the celebration. Thank you so much to Scott, Todd, and the entire BigRedWorks team!
The following is a poem written by Jim Wilgar. This poem was performed at Sunday Gathering (formerly Chapel) at the 100th Anniversary Celebration on September 8th, 2019.
I GOT THIS TASK BECAUSE OF TIME;
MY HAIR’S NOT WHITE BECAUSE OF LIME!
TO SHARE SOME THOUGHTS OF KITCHI’S PAST
GIVE THANKS,CONNECT, LONG MAY IT LAST!
WHAT IS THIS “MAGIC” WE ALL FEEL INSIDE?
IT SWELLS WITHIN LIKE A RISING TIDE!
WHEN EVER WE THINK OF KITCHI TIMES
AND SENSE THE LINKS THAT IN US – BINDS.
WE’RE NOT THE FIRST TO CAMP RIGHT HERE.
FIRST NATIONS BROTHERS, YES, TO BE CLEAR,
SET OUT A CULTURE THROUGH OUT THESE WATERS.
TO THEM OUR THANKS – THOSE SONS AND DAUGHTERS!
WE THEN SHOULD SHOW OUR “GRATITUDE”
BY CARING ABOUT OUR… “ATTITUDE”!
SO THAT WE SHARE IN EACH NEW DAY
THE JOYS OF LIFE…. IN ALL WE SAY!
THE FOUNDERS OF OUR KITCHI CAMP
WERE CLEAR ON GOALS, AND WITH THEIR STAMP
GOT LEADERSHIP FROM EVERY ONE
THAT’S NOW BEEN PASSED TO DAUGHTER, SON.
THURLOW AND FRIENDS CHOSE THIS CAMP-SITE SPOT.
T’ WAS FOLLOWED BY A TRULY COMMITTED LOT
OF “SMITHY” TYPES AND CHOSEN STAFFS
WHO TAUGHT AND PLAYED, HAD MANY LAUGHS!
FROM ’48 AND THEN TWELVE YEARS,
I’VE HELPED NEW CAMPERS WITH THEIR TEARS
THAT SOON GET LOST IN DAILY TESTS
THAT EARN THEM YET… ANOTHER CREST!
THE THRILL OF LEARNING HOW TO SWIM,
CLEANING LANTERNS WHEN THEY WERE DIM.
NO “POWER” WAS AT OUR BECKON CALL,
JUST GAS FIRED LIGHTS IN THE DINING HALL!
ONCE UP THE RAMP FROM THAT SLOW CAMP BOAT
THE PUMP WAS THERE TO WET YOUR THROAT.
AND THERE WAS “SMITTY” – LIKE A TALL OAK TREE,
SMILING A WELCOME… T’WAS FIXED ON ME!
HOW COULD I BE THIS IMPORTANT GUY?
THAT – WAS HIS “MAGIC” —- DO, GIVE IT A TRY…!
A SMILE, A WORD AND THOUGHTFUL DEEDS
MAKES SUCH A DIFFERENCE TO ALL OUR NEEDS.
DO NOT FORGET TO FOSTER – “THANKS”
TO THOSE WHO HELPED YOU THROUGH THE RANKS.
COMMIT TO CARING… FOR ONE ANOTHER,
SO, COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS, (DON’T FORGET YOUR MOTHER!)
I LOVED THE SUNDAY “CHAPEL” SPACE.
FOR ONCE, CLEAN WHITES AND A WASHED, DRY FACE!
THE “RCS’ WENT TO CHURCH ON SHORE
WITH SHOPPING LISTS..PEANUT BUTTER AND MORE!
THE MILES WE PADDLED THOSE RED CANOES,
ATE “GUMPERT’S” MEALS, WE DIDN’T CHOOSE!
SOMETIMES WE DUMPED AND STUBBED OUR TOES,
LEARNED HOW TO LIVE WITH MOS-QUI-TOES!
CAMP MUSIC PLAYED SUCH AN IMPORTANT PART
WITH SONGS AT LUNCH TO END AND START.
BILL MARWICK WAS A TALENTED GUY.
WHY, HE EVEN MADE MARY POPPINS – FLY!
THE GRUNSKI’S WERE OF SYMPHONY FAME,
CLASSICAL MUSIC WAS THEIR PRO GAME.
EACH SUNDAY NIGHT THERE WAS A SHOW
’TWAS SUCH GREAT FUN AND ALL DID GO!
OH, SAILING WAS MY FAVOURITE THING
DELIGHTED WHEN THE STAYS DID SING!
AND ED HAD TAUGHT US WELL FOR SURE
THOSE GAF RIG BOATS HOW THEY COULD PURR!
THE “TENT ALLEY” GAMES – WERE CAMP BEGAN,
WERE ROUGH AND TOUGH ON EVERY “MAN”.
BUT IN THE END, TRUE FRIENDSHIPS WON,
WE ALL DRANK “FRESHIE” ‘NEATH THE SETTING SUN.
AND WHO COULD FORGET THE MORNING DIPS!
AU NATUREL, YOU MADE THOSE TRIPS.
OBSERVED BY CHIPMUNKS, BIRDS AND SNAKES
DEVIOD OF CARE OR “FACE TIME” TAKES.
THE “PICNIC” HIKES TO FAIRY LAKE
WHEN KITCHEN STAFF HAD THEIR WEEKLY BREAK.
I STILL CAN TASTE, THAT BLUEBERRY PIE.
SEE MOUTHS ALL COATED IN A PURPLE DYE!
THOSE SPECIAL FIRES ON CHAMPLAIN ROCKS.
TO LAUGH AT SKITS, HEAR THOUGHTFUL TALKS.
A MEETING PLACE FOR ALL TO GO
AND WATCH THE MIRIAD STARS AGLOW!
RECOLLECTIONS, SO MANY, BUT MINUTES FEW,
JOIN HANDS WITH THOSE SITTING NEXT TO YOU…
PLEASE, CLOSE YOUR EYES FOR A QUIET THOUGHT
AND THINK OF ALL THAT KITCHI’S TAUGHT.
THE PEOPLE, PLACES AND THINGS THAT MATTERED,
A TIME AND SPACE NOT TORN AND TATTERED!
THE “KITCHI SPIRIT” IS IN YOUR SOULS;
DEPART DEAR FRIENDS WITH RENEWED GOALS!
MAY KITCHI LAST TEN THOUSAND MORE !
WITH PEOPLE COMMITTED TO THE CORE.
WITH “GRATITUDE” WE’ER HERE FOR YOU!
AND ALL WHO COME BOTH OLDER AND NEW.
LET GO THE HANDS, BUT THE “SPIRIT”, KEEP!
OUR CAMPS MADE MEMORIES, OH … SO DEEP!
MY THANKS TO ALL WHO’VE MADE THIS DAY
SO SPECIAL YES , IN EVERY WAY!
ON WE GO ……
Mentor: A guide, a wise and faithful counsellor, so called from Mentor, who is friend of Odysseus and a guide to Odysseus’ son, Telemachus, who desperately needed one.
When I was 11 years old, in 1977, I didn’t want to go back to camp. The previous summer I’d gone for a month, which is a long time if you’re not having a good time, and I wasn’t. I was in Intermediate 9 (now, Treasure 9), and my best friend Stuart got put in Junior 1 (Wanakita 1), and we might as well have been at different camps. I never saw him.
Most of my cabinmates went home after the first two weeks, and then I got poison ivy all over my legs and arms for the second two. I dared not go to the infirmary because, well, in the 70s you didn’t go there unless you were near death, and I knew the nurse would coat me in calamine lotion, turning me pink and making me the subject of ridicule. I arrived home at the end of the month, ten pounds lighter than I was at the beginning of it. My parents said I looked like I’d walked out of The Lord of the Flies.
But I agreed to go back— on two conditions: The first was that, although my parents registered me for a month, I only had to stay for the first two weeks, unless I was having the time of my life, which I knew I wouldn’t be. The second was that the camp director would guarantee Stuart would be in my cabin.
And so, July 2nd arrived and Stuart and I got in my family station wagon and our dads drove us the 2-hour journey to Honey Harbor. Stuart and I sat in the back seat and cried the entire time—to the soundtrack of John Denver’s Greatest Hits on an 8-track player. And then I barfed on Honey Harbor Road. That the harrowing journey ended with this godforsaken road was, I have always felt, cruel and unusual punishment. “That’s why it’s exactly 13 km long,” said Stuart. “That’s why you always get sick,” he said. “It’s the road to our doom.”
When we arrived at camp, Stuart and I were greeted with the news that we were not in the same cabin. A clerical error had occurred. And so camp began. To make matters worse, I had to sail all the time—during skills, morning free time, and afternoon free time. Somehow, and without my consent, I’d become a child-prodigy in sailing. My older brother was good at it and so therefore I had to be. And sailing at Kitchikewana was a ridiculously big deal. In that magnified island culture, if you won sailing races you were some kind of local hero. And the stress levels around racing culminated in The Douglas Racing Series at the end of the month, wherein you did nothing but sail—all 3 free times, rest hour, even before breakfast if need be. As a crew for one of the senior boys who lived and died to win the Douglas (he never did), I had to live in an albacore for a week.
I would much rather have played manhunt in the woods near my cabin with my friends. I never admitted this, but I hated sailing. Hated it. I was too young and too small to be skippering an albacore. To be kind, this was not a good boat to learn to sail in. It’s too big and heavy and has way too much sail area. I weighed all of 70 pounds, and the boat was overpowering in a moderate breeze. I felt always on the brink of shipwreck. If you tipped an albacore, it was a near disaster. It triggered a coast-guard-like rescue with the sailing staff scrambling into a motor boat and screaming through a megaphone. Then they towed into camp for all to see—your sails dowsed and flapping like flags of defeat.
But the thing I really hated about sailing was all the yelling. Sail racing was a yeller’s paradise. The senior boy racers yelled at their crew, and at each other, and at the boats and the rocks and the water. It was as if, the moment they got in a boat, they forgot how to talk normally. I think they thought they sounded like pirates.
Get down on the leeeeeeee! Staaaarboaaaaaaaard! Leeeeeeewaaaaard! Buoy Room! – a litany of expletive-laden nautical commands. I had a recurring dream about being yelled at in some storm-to-end- all-storms, as piece-by-piece the sailboat disintegrated until there was nothing left but me and absolute chaos swirling around me.
So, I had grown to dislike sailing. I prayed for gale-force winds or for no wind at all, so that the sailing director would be forced to cancel the races. I prayed the way schoolchildren pray for a snow day. And one day it happened. The wind was howling and the races got cancelled. Thank you, thank you, thank you, I said to the gods of wind and water and fun at camp.
But then, a half hour after the race had been cancelled, during rest hour, the sailing director came to my cabin to see me. The sailing director was Brian (Bee) Wilson. And while I hated sailing, I liked Bee. Everyone liked Bee. He was kind and soft-spoken and funny and cool. I wanted to be like Bee someday, if I survived camp. That day, when I saw him coming, I thought, Oh boy, he’s coming to ban me from sailing, for the good of the fleet.
“Hi Paul!” he said.
“Hi Bee,” I said.
“I was wondering if you’d like to go sailing this afternoon?” he said. My heart sank.
“But, but I thought it was too windy?” I said, hopefully.
“Not for us,” Bee said.
“Us?” I asked.
“Me and you,” he said. “I thought maybe we could take a boat out and I could help you with your sailing, so you’d enjoy it more.” How did he know?
I asked, “But won’t it be dangerous?” I could hear the wind roaring through the treetops.
“No, it will be fine. You have nothing to be scared of. It’ll be fun.”
“Well, I guess I’ll go,” I said, my anxiety rising.
And so later that day I went sailing with Bee. And it was, well, joyful. We just zoomed around effortlessly, making a massive wake behind the boat. I couldn’t believe how fast we were going and how easy it was. It was the first time I’d felt a sailboat go up onto a plane, buzzing along surface of the water. It was more like flying. And in an hour and a half, I learned how to sail—not so much in technical terms (I still had a long way to go), but in heart-felt terms, as if I finally understood why people did this. I felt at once elated and tearful—maybe this was self-compassion for anxiety I had endured, I don’t know.
When we derigged the boat and rowed back to the beach, I thanked Bee again and again and walked away feeling so empowered, like I was planning on my feet. And here’s the thing: Bee hadn’t yelled—not once. He hadn’t even raised his voice.
This past September, at the 100th anniversary, I told my story about Bee to the gathered assembly; but before I told it, I ran it by Bee himself—who was there (I hadn’t known he would be). I wanted to ask his permission, as I remembered him being humble and not one to need the limelight. I also wanted to see if I had the story right. I said to him, “You didn’t yell.” And he smiled and said, “It wasn’t my style.”
No it wasn’t. And because it wasn’t, and because Bee had the emotional intelligence to know I needed some help, and the compassion to provide it, things turned around for me on that July day in 1977. I stayed for the whole month and had a great time, and I kept going back for 13 years—including 5 years as sailing staff, where I tried to emulate Bee.
There is another part to this story. I had my birthday at camp. July 26, near the end of camp and right in the thick of the Douglas. Back then you got a cake to serve the masses. Every camper was suddenly your friend and they lined up for a piece of cake, but the one person I wanted to give a piece of cake to didn’t line up. It wasn’t his style. So, I cut out a piece and wrapped it in napkins and stuck it in my pocket. Then, after dinner I walked down to the sailing area and found Bee.
“Hi Paul, Happy Birthday,” he said.
“Thanks Bee. I brought you a piece of cake.” I held out the crumbling piece. There was a candle in it.
“Wow, thanks. What kind is it?”
“Um, I don’t know.” I said. In my desperation to save a piece for Bee, I hadn’t saved one for myself, but I didn’t want him to know because then he wouldn’t accept it.
“Well you have to have a piece of your own cake,” he said.
“No, I want you to have it,” I insisted. And he got that. He understood this wasn’t about the cake.
“How’ bout we share it.” And we did, which just goes to show you that you can have your cake and give it away too.
At the 100th Anniversary, after I’d run the whole story by him, Bee asked “What day is your birthday?”
“July 26th,” I said.
“Mine is July 25th!” he said. Then I remembered that Bee had given me a piece of his cake. And I remembered thinking how cool it was that Bee and I basically shared the same birthday, and that therefore we were similar, and so, 32 years ago, he became my mentor.
We choose our mentors. They don’t choose us. They can try, but it’s not how it works. You look around until you see someone you want to be like, and they may never know you are watching them. Eleven-year-old boys are highly impressionable and they desperately need young men to look up to. I have an 11-year-old son and I send him to Kitchikewana, not so that he can learn how to sail and canoe, although that’s part of it. I send him to Kitchikewana so that he can be among people who are at their best, so that he can choose a good mentor, so that he can find his Bee Wilson.
And at the 100th anniversary it really stuck me how mentorship works, how it gets handed down informally, how it’s not written down in the program guide, not in the curriculum. The truly important stuff never is. I know that I was mentor for some at Kitchikewana. I know that Matt Ladner, had looked to my example when he was a counsellor. Matt didn’t get to have Bee as a mentor, and yet, maybe he did. And surely Bee had his mentors. Maybe Bob Morton, who had a similar leadership style.
In a moment in time last June, Matt Ladner and I got to deliver a leadership session to the Kitchikewana staff with Bob Morton. Bob was Assistant Camp Director when I first went to Kitchikewana as a family camper (I was 6), and Bob told the story of How the Chipmunk got its Stripes at an evening campfire. He cast a spell on me and I picked up that story years later and have told it countless times. In 1989, Mike Elrick and I invited Bob to come up and talk to the Kitchikewana staff about the history and culture of the camp, and about leadership as he saw it. We felt that as young leaders, we needed guidance from an elder. Who better than Bob Morton? He graciously accepted and he spoke to the staff out at Champlain’s Point one evening by a campfire as the sun set, and Mike and I felt both empowered and humbled in the legacy of the place he described.
Bob had a similar effect on the staff this past June. When Matt and I got out to the rock to begin the session, Bob was already there, sitting among the staff, laughing about some story one of them had told him. He was listening, fully present, even though he knew he was dying and that this might be the last time he would ever sit on that rock. He looked just like he looks in the photo of him in the Wall of Distinction book (probably taken in the early 70s): He is sitting back and his eyes are closed and he looks so full of gratitude—for where he is and who he is. And I will never forget that mirror image of him out on the rock this past June, leaning back and laughing among the staff who were two generations younger. Leadership, mentorship.
We are grateful.
It is with great sadness that we share the passing of our dear Kitchikewana friend, Bob Morton. Bob spent many years at Camp Kitchikewana on Beausoleil Island. In September 2019, Bob was added to the Wall of Distinction during the 100th Anniversary Celebration for his lifetime dedication to the Camp. He also served as our Keynote Speaker at the 100th Anniversary Celebration, and generously donated a canoe that is believed to belong to the original fleet of Camp Kitchikewana canoes. The Family is planning a Celebration of Life on Saturday May 23, 2020 at the Midland Golf and Country Club from 2 – 5 pm. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Huronia Hospice or Georgian Bay District Hospital.
REACH for Inclusion, previously Reach for the Rainbow, was an organization that matched children and youth with exceptionalities to camps that fit their needs. REACH provided funding to camps, including YMCA Camp Kitchikewana, to be able to pay for 1:1 workers for participants with special needs. In January of 2019, we received news that REACH was no longer. Due to cuts and coming up short in fundraising, the organization was ceasing operations.
Members of the Kitchikewana community dating back to the early 90s can speak to the amazing impact that the integration program has had. Campers and staff alike attest to finding so much joy in their involvement with the program, and to learning a lot about communication, patience, and love when working with a participant with differing needs. Families of participants who have come through REACH are thankful for the respite that camp provides, and the social skills that it can impart on their child.
At YMCA Camp Kitchikewana, we value every individual and believe that everyone deserves a positive camp experience. Inclusiveness is a core value of the YMCA and we strive to eliminate barriers and allow interested children and youth to attend camp. We believe strongly in the value of the integration program at Kitchikewana, and it is a priority of ours to continue the program despite REACH no longer existing.
“It is hard to put into words the incredible impact Camp Kitchikewana has made on our family. Not only does Camp provide two weeks of much needed respite for our family and gives us our only break each year, but our non-verbal, autistic, iPad dependent daughter comes back from camp having had an incredible experience with kids from all walks of life. Camp has given her the independence that is so important for her growth and she comes back beaming with happiness – even after 2 weeks without technology. It broadens her interests and lets her participate in activities that she would normally never get the chance to do. Each year she comes back with a bit more confidence and a new independent skill. She is so happy when I drop her off at the dock in Honey Harbour – all the staff yell her name and greet her like a rock star – she beams from ear to ear. She feels special, she is safe and she is happy. That to us is priceless.”
Wendy Robertson – Camp Kitchikewana Parent
On behalf of Kitchikewana campers for generations to come, we would both like to extend our thanks to everyone who has made a commitment to the 100th Anniversary Endowment Fund. We are pleased to share that we have now surpassed $1.1 million in financial commitments to this legacy project to celebrate 100 years of YMCA Camp Kitchikewana camping on Beausoleil Island.
This fund has been set up in partnership with the Huronia Community Foundation and is designed to enrich the Camp Kitchikewana “camper experience” with investments focused on new initiatives, program equipment and non-capital expenses. Each year, camp management will recommend a project or projects that meet the criteria of the fund. The Camp Kitchikewana Alumni Advisory Committee will approve the project to ensure that the interest generated by the endowment is allocated in the spirit of the fund.
The 100th Anniversary Endowment Fund is truly a “game changer” for YMCA Camp Kitchikewana.
Gifts can be in the form of one-time cash gifts, multi-year pledges, transfer of stock/securities or a planned gift in the form of a bequest or life insurance policy. Our lead donor, Paul Lawrence, has agreed to match each gift pledged between now and June 2022 (planned gifts will be matched at net present value). If you would like to learn more about the fund or if you are interested in making a gift of your own, please email email@example.com. Note that one-time cash donations can be made online at https://www.huroniacommunityfoundation.com/donate-now/form/
The Fund on this page is listed as – “YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka Camp Kitchikewana”.
Thank you for considering supporting this project – we really can’t think of a greater way to celebrate 100 years of Kitchikewana camping than by making an investment in the next 100.
Matt Ladner and Sean Weaser
Endowment Campaign Co-Chairs
Music is an undeniably important part of camp. This year’s Endowment Fund expenditures were used to purchase new guitars for Guitar Skill, so that campers can better develop this skill that so many cite as one of the most important parts of camp.
Sarah Calvert was one of our many musicians that played at the 100th Anniversary. I asked her to write some thoughts about how the intersection of camp and music has affected her life:
Day is done, gone the sun, from the lakes, from the hills, from the skies…God is nigh.” Most evenings at dusk I sit on my porch and sing this song, watching the sun sink into Lake Cocibolca’s horizon here on Ometepe Island in Nicaragua. With every unique sunset in its intricacies of colours and patterns, I do feel that “God is nigh” or that Spirit is near. Often, as I wake up to birdsong and see the sun rising over the volcano behind my home I’ll belt out, “Oh what a beautiful morning! Oh what a beautiful day!” Last week I was chiming “Feliz Navidad” like nobody’s biz, to all the neighbours, recounting those August 25th mornings when Joe Vetro (the hunk we all adored at girl’s camp) would walk around the junior section with his guitar serenading us. Clearly, Kitchi has left its imprint upon me, and the music that I experienced at camp has shaped who I am today, and how I live my life.
For me, music is associated deeply with ritual, and as a spiritual teacher and musician, this notion of ritual and music go hand in hand. When I lead my retreats, we always gather in the morning to do some sort of meditation or yogic practice to start the day mindfully, which is reminiscent of “morning thought” at flagpole. Before we eat, we gather around the food and sing songs of gratitude and thanks, a practice instilled at camp of course. We often have a night of devotional music and reflection, a ritual I revered every Sunday at chapel. On the last night of my retreats, we sit around a campfire singing traditional tunes. It’s a way to unite people, despite race, colour, creed and religion. Campfires for me are now seen as an informal “ceremony,” and I’ve already had a couple here at my place in Nicaragua. My experiences with various ceremonies in Peru all incorporated some sort of music, whether it be shamanic drumming or singing. In India, many of the practices that resonated the most involved some sort of chanting and music. Music and sound has been the vehicle to help take me into an altered state. A place where I am most in touch with the universe, and most importantly, with myself. When I attended my first Kundalini Yoga class twenty years ago the class finished with a chant that left me in tears. I wasn’t consciously sad at the time; I’d just spent a killer day at the local ski hill. However, that music moved something in me that allowed me to have a cathartic experience, getting rid of subconscious garbage I’d been unknowingly carrying around. It changed my life. Singing and swaying in a group of people, tears streaming down my cheeks, I think back to that first class, and am reminded about other times like this: closing campfires at Kitchi.
Here’s where the whole “Everyday people just don’t understand” theme really comes into play. Gary Bard so eloquently summed up our experiences in his song, in a way that is simple, and yet profound. I’d tell my friends at home about closing campfire, one of my favourite (albeit bitter-sweet) happenings at camp, and they’d be confused, “Um, okay, so you all just sit around a fire and sing and cry? That’s weird.” But we know that to be amongst like-minded souls with a love for Kitchi and its values, and to be open and vulnerable with each other through our tears at a young age was so rich and healing. I believe it set us up to be more reflective, to celebrate friendships and to be empathetic, compassionate human beings. Those campfire songs told the stories of our lives. Carole King’s ‘You’ve Got a Friend’ solidified friendships in a way that we didn’t need to have a conversation; singing and swaying together was enough. I still call on Kitchi friends today when I’m “down and troubled”. James Taylor’s ‘Fire and Rain’ inspired us to believe that indeed, we would see each other again. I can still hear Sarah Hill’s sweet voice coming in on verse two. When I close my eyes around a campfire today, I can hear Graham Weber strumming Blue Rodeo’s ‘Lost Together’. That music became a fabric, weaved by so many voices and memories, and I take that with me wherever I go in the world.
And so, as a songwriter today, those songs from the heart informed the way I write. I allow myself to become vulnerable and to write as honestly as I can, knowing that my experiences, although unique to me, are actually universal: love, loss, experience, learning, growing. This is the human experience. I’m currently working on a musical theatre project, a “spiritual musical” if you will. Our morning anthem ‘Oh What a Beautiful Morning’ from Rogers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma set the tone for having a positive outlook and appreciating the day. It’s my hope that through music, I can convey much of what I’ve learned, from Kitchi and my journey, to encourage more kindness, compassion and love in this world.
Sarah attended Kitchikewana from 1983-1995 as a camper, counsellor then programming staff. She currently leads spiritual retreats in Canada and Nicaragua and continues to write and perform music. She’s recorded several albums and has published a memoir about her travels. www.sarahcalvert.ca
If you spent any time at Kitchikewana during the 2019 season, you may have heard … we had a resident fox.
This fox quickly became a beloved member of the Kitchikewana family, to most. Despite learning from Parks Canada that it was best to ignore it, it was seemingly impossible to stop campers from falling in love with the fox. Many had names for it, and exclaimed excitedly when they would see it.
In a day and age where this love and excitement for nature is harder and harder to come by – we needed to nurture these feelings in our campers while ultimately doing what was best for the fox, and letting it be.
I was tasked with keeping the fox away. The Park taught me many strategies to encourage the fox offsite, and thus increase its chances of survival over the winter. It became a big part of my summer. I received 10+ messages a day about the fox’s whereabouts. Even when I was off the island.
So I would show up, air horn in hand, to scare the fox offsite.
This, of course, was to ensure that the fox did not become reliant on human presence. It was for the long-term benefit of the fox.
I’ve passed seasons at multiple different summer camps and outdoor centres throughout both my childhood and adult career so far. One thing they all have in common is a theme of connection. Connection to each other, to a place, to oneself, to the past, to the natural world.
The fox taught me that connection with nature comes in three stages. The first is love and awe, the second is wonder and learning, the third is protection.
In my many adventures of scaring this fox back into the woods, the campers who had been mesmerized by the fox would ask why I was doing so. Once they understood that this was all to protect the fox, they would help encourage others to stay away from the fox. Awe, wonder, protection. Connection.
This connection to nature does not only exist during summer camp. Through our strong relationship with Parks Canada, we offer our outdoor education groups with outstanding cultural and nature-based programs. Georgian Bay Islands National Park staff provide Species-At-Risk, Artifacts of Kitchikewana, and Reptiles in the Wild programs, amongst others. A group of students from Toronto witnessed 25 snapping turtle eggs hatch, during one such program, and helped them make their journey into the Bay. Awe, wonder, protection. Connection.
In a fitting coincidence, prior to our summertime fox moving in, we received a (slightly prophetic) gift. When alumnus Paul Gifford, strong advocate of the benefits of outdoor play and connection to nature, visited us for staff training in 2019, he left us a copy of The Fox and the Star by Coralie Bickford-Smith.
The fox in this story is best friends with the star in the sky; until one day he cannot find it. Eventually, he is encouraged to “look up beyond [his] ears”, and then he is amazed by a sky-full of stars. Sometimes this awe and wonder that we experience with the natural world needs to be intentional. On Beausoleil, it comes naturally. When we are back living in cities, we sometimes must look beyond what is directly in front of us. I urge you to never forget the value of doing so.
To fiercely protect something, you must first fall in love with it; we would like to thank Parks Canada for their unrivaled support in helping us show thousands of youth every year how easy nature is to love. And to Kitchikewana alumni – please continue to spread that childlike love and awe that you first found on these sands. The benefits to both humankind and our beautiful planet are immeasurable.
Assistant Director – 2019 – present
Here are the Camping Team’s predictions as to when we will be able to access Beausoleil Island by boat (specifically, the main docks). Do you agree with our predictions? Do you have a different guess? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your date! If you’re right, you will win a free piece of Kitchikewana swag!
Gord’s guess: April 13th
Emma’s guess: April 21st
Lesley’s guess: April 24th
Julia’s guess: April 26th