Thursday Morning Fun Inspires the ‘Manitou Cares’ spirit!

This morning was an epic Thursday morning at Manitou.   We had two groups of amazing Leaders in Training (LITs) running excellent programs for our younger campers. The LITs were asked to think of fun engaging activities for younger campers that linked to our Manitou Cares themes.

Our first group of LITs decided to run an arts and crafts project with younger campers where our campers got to decorate hearts for Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital and write inspirational messages of hope, love and support.  Many campers turned out to create these heart-felt crafts.  Messages on the hearts included, “Manitou hopes you get a better future! We care”, “Never give up! Be brave! Keep Calm and Smile! Luv you!”, “Holland Bloorview stay strong!” and “Smile! Happy looks great on you!” The LIT girls and the campers together made over forty-five hearts to mail off to Holland Bloorview.  We are so proud of our LITs and our campers.  This was such a thoughtful crafts project that really focused on giving back and looking out for others.

Our second group of LITs are two gentlemen who had great success at the beginning of the summer running a 3-on-3 basketball tournament and decided because of popular demand to run another tournament.  Like last time, the boys wanted to raise awareness for ‘Kids in Camp’.  For every participant who signed up for the tournament and participated, camp donated money to KIC.  The tournament this morning had over thirty campers come out to participate.  What impressed the LITs though more than anything was what the 3-on-3 team from cabin B20 decided to do.  After being told that the team from B20 was the winners and that they won an ice-cream party for themselves and their cabin, the boys on this team asked to forgo their ice-cream party and donate whatever the costs would be for the party to Kids in Camp on their behalf.  The LITs running the tournament, as well as everyone else on the basketball court was incredibly impressed by this generous spirit and inspired by the message of putting the needs of others ahead of your own.  Great example to set for everyone in camp B20!

We are so proud of the success of both of these programs.  They truly reflected our Manitou Cares missions and values.  Keep up the great work LITs and Campers!

Manitou Cares Senior Unit Soap Box Race

Yesterday was a very exciting day for the seniors at Manitou.  The entire unit was surprised this morning when word broke of a very special afternoon they were in store for, they were told to ‘book off’ the entire afternoon but were not given much more detail than that.  When the seniors arrived at the field there were eight different tents with wooden crates inside of them and on top of each crate lay a screwdriver.

Kailee (our director of all Manitou-Cares events (amongst many other things!) alongside Joel from Spirit Entertainment introduced himself to the seniors and let them know that they would be working in cabin groups to build, decorate and race classic ‘soap-box’ ‘go-karts’. The coolest part was that each kart had been assigned a charity or cause that Camp Manitou supports throughout the year.  Each cabin was given a ‘bio’ about their charity or cause which included Manitoucamp Foundation, Red Door Family Shelter, Soup Sisters, North York Harvest Food Bank, Holland Bloorview Kid’s Rehabilitation Hospital, Variety Village, Camp Oochigeas, and ‘Kids in Camp‘.

The seniors were given no instructions on how to build the soap box cars, they were assigned various roles in their cabin and assembled the soap-box cars together as a team.  The signs made to decorate the cars corresponding with the various cars were awesome.  The enthusiasm running through camp-house field was contagious and many younger campers came out to watch.  With a model that was constructed prior to the arrival of the seniors on the field, the seniors saw how to construct the soap box cars and assembled all 170 parts into eight different ‘soap-boxes’.

We are so proud of our senior unit!  They worked incredibly well within their cabin groups to complete a difficult challenge.  Their hard work paid off as they enjoyed racing their cars against the other cabins’.  In the end, the B-15 Boys who represented the ‘Soup-Sisters’ charity (who they made soup for just last week that went to the Parry Sound women’s shelter) were victorious and Manitoucamp foundation made a donation in their honor!  Well done all senior campers and staff!

Chris Hendricks rocks fireside!

Last night, Manitou welcomed a very musically talented and inspirational visitor to our Friday night fireside. Chris Hendricks, and his manager Aaron Gallagher made the long journey from North Carolina to Manitou yesterday. Chris, is an incredible singer/songwriter but more importantly he is an inspiration to all of us because he is able to pass on a message that is so important and powerful. Chris’ message is related to our theme of the summer – ‘If you are judging everything, you are learning nothing.’

Chris has made it his goal to teach young people how to break down barriers, have faith in themselves and make sure that they don’t let anyone else ever pull them down. At the age of four, Chris was diagnosed with, cerebral palsy. Chris was bullied because of this condition from the time that he was four until he was eighteen. Now, at twenty-nine years of age, Chris is occasionally still bullied, thankfully though he has developed enough confidence and self-appreciation to not allow the negativity of others to effect his feelings of himself. With his motto of “you do you,” Chris has come to the realization that nobody can make him feel bad about himself without his consent.

Mark said at our very first fireside of our 2015 summer, “often it is the people who nobody imagines, who do the things nobody could imagine was possible”. Chris Hendricks didn’t imagine when he was a young boy that he would be a famous speaker and musician – yet here he was, at Camp Manitou, speaking to our camp community, spreading his message of hope and perseverance and singing beautiful and inspiring songs. Chris asked everyone if they had heard the expression ‘seeing is believing’.  He then went on to inform us that the expression is wrong, “believing is seeing!” It wasn’t until Chris believed in himself, in his talent, in his abilities and his endless possibilities that he was able to get out there, accomplish his goals, and see the person he always wanted to be.

Chris performed some of his own songs and told the Manitou community about his struggles with people judging him, with being bullied and with people underestimating him. Chris moved many campers and staff members to tears with the stories of his struggles in relationships, and the hardship he faced looking to fit in.  Hearing Chris play and listening to his stories was an incredible and motivational experience that was like no other.

In addition to the incredible performance and messages from Chris, Our Junior Unit delivered motivational speeches at last night’s fireside.  One camper’s speech included the idea that “when you use social media you judge people without even knowing it… instead of judging someone, try to find the message they’re trying to send first.” At Manitou, we are away from social media for two months and have the opportunity to talk “face to face” and engage in conversation. There is the notion that at camp we are “separated from the world” because of our lack of social media, however this separation actually makes us “10 times closer to the world” and the community around us.

Another Junior Camper said she picked Camp Manitou as her camp because she liked the values. Values like “acceptance, treating everyone with equal respect and not judging others.” She compared friendships at Manitou to friendships at school and said “At school, people may judge you for how you act or for what you look like.  At camp, you are not judged for any of that; rather you are just accepted for who you are.” Her message concluded with “Being in a cabin with so many different kinds of people, it’s important to remember that our differences are what make us closer.  One of the things I love most about Manitou is that differences are not just tolerated, but celebrated and embraced.”

A group of Junior campers performed the Hannah Montana Song “Nobody’s Perfect,” which was a great choice of song in continuing with our theme for the summer.  The song includes the lines, “Next time you feel like it’s just one of those days, when you can’t seem to win, if things don’t turn out the way you planned, figure something else out, don’t stay down, try again.  Everybody makes mistakes, everybody has those days.”

Today Chris spent the morning with our rock and guitar campers actually crafting a new song together and performed it for lunch…the song is brilliant and the campers took great pride in being such a vital part of the process.

This past 24 hours at Manitou was real, emotional, and so inspiring.  A huge special thank you to Chris Hendricks and the Junior Unit campers and staff for making it an evening and morning we will never forget.

Manitou LITs go to CNIB Lake Joe

Yesterday we took thirty of our oldest campers, the Leaders-in-Training (LITs), to Canadian National Institute for the Blind’s Lake Joseph Camp. The LITs went on this incredible day trip to learn how people with different abilities function and enjoy their summers at camp and also how to adapt many of the activities we do at Manitou for people with different needs.  

 When we arrived at CNIB, we were greeted by three staff and one guide dog.  Jack, a visually impaired staff member, guided us through the camp with his dog and his sense of hearing.  Remarkably, Jack knew that we were near a firepit because he “heard the sound of a tree” that he knew was beside the pit!  This awareness of the strength of all our senses was an awesome thing to experience. Surprisingly, Jack wouldn’t tell us his guide dog’s name because he explained that it is incredibly difficult for guide dogs to work when people are calling their names. 

 As the tour continued, different features of the camp were pointed out that are in place to help familiarize the visually impaired with the camp site. For example, we were shown the different markers along the hand rails that indicated a path, the different angles the railings were positioned along with what they meant and various beepers and other devices around CNIB that help their clients and volunteers to navigate the property safely and with relative ease.

 The LITs were impressed with the size of the camp, the variety of activities offered and the independence the participants were granted. While at  CNIB, the LITs took part in a descriptive drawing exercise. Sitting back-to-back in pairs, one partner drew a picture on a piece of paper, then using descriptive language they explained the drawing so that their partner could reproduce it. It was a great exercise for using descriptive language and active listening.

 After this exercise the LITs led games and hosted events for CNIB clients.  They broke up into six groups and ran ladder golf, bocce ball, shuffle board, horseshoes, mini putt and music games.  All of the various activities being run were adapted for people with visual impairments.  Interestingly, while waiting for participants to join them, one group played a pick-up game of basketball. Someone noticed that the ball had metal inside that would clang, indicating to someone without sight where the ball was. These small modifications allowed our own campers to understand how small changes can make all the difference to those with disabilities. They learned how easy it can be to change the impossible into the possible.

 Our trip to the Lake Joe Camp of the CNIB was a great success.  The LITs were so excited to meet new friends and in return, the CNIB staff and participants were thrilled to have Manitou LITs taking part in activities with them and appreciating the challenges of the visually impaired.  We look forward to going back to CNIB in early August with another group of LITs.

LITs are Soup-er Stars!

Thursdays at Manitou are a bit of a lazy day. Campers have the option to sleep in and of course our hobby hubs offer an assortment of fun for those earlier risers..… yet today was a little bit unusual. We were very impressed that even though sleeping-in is a Thursday tradition, all of the male Leaders-in-Training (LITs) woke up, shook the cobwebs out and were at Mark and Jeff’s cabin for 10:00am. These enthusiastic Manitou guys met with Barrie and Wendy from the Summer Stock program launched by Soup Sisters and were part of a very special initiative on behalf of Manitou Cares.

 The Summer Stock program is one terrific initiative: campers and counsellors learn valuable cooking skills and along the way, become young philanthropists in a hands-on, fun and meaningful way. The male LITs sliced, diced and stirred ingredients to create a delicious mushroom barley soup and a hearty hamburger soup and in the process were delivered an impactful presentation by Soup Sisters on what makes for a strong, safe and respectful relationship. In keeping with the philosophy that Manitou wishes to instill in all of our campers, Soup Sisters provided these young men with a specific set of tools in a very unique and supportive youth-focused environment.

 The girls were a bit luckier: they got to sleep in and participate in the Summer Stock program! In the afternoon, all of our female LITs gathered and also took part in making two soups while being taught the same relevant lessons on healthy, safe relationships. The female campers made a nourishing chicken soup and a very tasty pasta vegetarian soup.

At 2:30pm, two representatives from the Parry Sound Women’s Shelter came to speak to all of Manitou’s LITs and their staff. They graciously thanked our LITs and LIT staff for their efforts in preparing and labelling the soup — and of course for the soup itself which will go a long way to nourishing those in need. They talked about the shelter in Parry Sound and how appreciative they are that the soup would be going to help people who are suffering and need it most. Our LITs should be proud of themselves and take forward the feeling that every act of kindness, no matter how big or how small, creates positive change in our world.

We look forward to cooking more soup in August with the Soup Sisters!

Freshkid Fireside

Last night we gathered as a camp for an incredible and inspiring Fireside hosted by our Freshkid Unit. A female and male camper were honoured from each of the units with a candle as well as a male and female staff member who have just been beyond exceptional and compassionate in everything they’ve done.

It was hard to believe that such little people could be so inspirational, but it was just further validation for our theme of the summer. If we are judging everything we are learning nothing. Many Freshkids spoke about why it is important not to judge people, about ways to avoid judging people, and how it makes them feel to be in an environment like Manitou where they get to feel judgement-free.
One of the Freshkid campers said, “Manitou is a prime example of a place where people could judge. There are so many new people trying new activities everyday, not to mention everyone is meeting everyone else for the very first time.” She then added that “It is our responsibility here at Manitou to give each and every person we meet an opportunity to be themselves without being judged.” She concluded her speech with a quote she found that really touches on our theme this summer, “when you judge another, you don’t define them, you define yourself”.

Two other Freshkids spoke to each other and asked, “Do you know why people judge others?” and then answered “No, but I do know how to deal with it. Let’s say someone is homesick you should go and ask if she or he is okay instead of laughing.” They finished up their speech by saying that “It does not matter what is on the outside, it matters what is on the inside.”

As a unit, the Freshkids sang ‘Shake it Off’ by Taylor Swift. The song was very appropriate, especially with the verse “I’m dancing on my own, I make the moves up as I go, and that’s what they don’t know, that’s what they don’t know. But I keep cruising, Can’t stop, won’t stop grooving, Its like I got this music in my mind saying, It’s gonna be alright.” The message of not judging others and shaking it off when others judge you was very prevalent in the Freshkid Fireside.
We are so proud of our Freshkids. They set the bar high this summer for meaningful, relevant, and heartfelt Fireside.

Great Job Freshkids and Freshkid Staff!

ManitouCares Thursday Morning Fun!

Today was our first Sleep-in ‘Super’ Thursday of the summer. Some of our Senior campers, (The ‘LITs’), ran incredible and entertaining programs for our Fresh and Sophomore early risers as they were asked to create and run various hour long activities and look to link them to our ManitouCares program. The goal of our ManitouCares program, is to instill in our children core values of empathy, and the importance of giving back to the world around them.

The 9:00 – 10:00 programs were ‘paint twister’ and ‘gaga’. Several younger campers loved putting their hands and feet on the various twister circles of paint and trying to maintain their balance while their friends were maneuvering all around them. We had a huge turnout for gaga. Campers cheered on their friends as the LITs participated and learned from their young participants how to play gaga the Freshkid and Sophmore way! Both of these activities asked participants who were eliminated pay-it-forward. Each camper was asked to go out of their way throughout the day to do something kind for someone else. Some examples of these ‘pay it forward’ already today have included assisting peers with their cabin clean-up, paying complements to others and supporting peers in cabin-activities.

The 10:00 – 11:00 activity, was a three-on-three basketball tournament to raise money for Kids in Camp. ‘KIC’ is a registered charity which subsidizes camp experiences for children all over Ontario. They assist families, who otherwise would not be able, to send their kids to camp. The two LITs who organized and ran the tournament selected Kids in Camp to be the recipient of the proceeds raised from the tournament because they felt incredibly fortunate to be able to attend summer camp and wanted to be able to help other kids who may not be as fortunate attend and enjoy camp too. Camp agreed to donate a dollar amount for every camper who signed up for the tournament. We had a record number of camper participants for any Thursday programing at the 3-on-3 tournament. We are thrilled to be making a very generous donation to Kids in Camp. The best part was seeing these LITS announce this program at Flagpole, lead it and then see them beaming with pride about how successful it was and how much money was raised!

Our LITs ran incredible programing that was organized and well thought out. They really stepped up and showed the camp that they are leaders in our community and embrace the messages we strive for in our Manitou Cares Program. We are excited for next Thursday when we have a new group of LITs who have volunteered to run different engaging programs that again will be entertaining and relate to the values and themes we strive to teach at Camp Manitou.

Great job LITs!