Boy, oh boy. It’s been mere hours since ten buses jam-packed with excited campers pulled up to the Manitou gates, but already, it feels like home!
Cabin assignments were met with oohs, aahs, cheers and quiet smiles. Kids of all ages ran excitedly through our tunnel of staff hands, hugged or high-fived Manny the Moose, and found their counsellors and unit heads. And just like that, over 400 new faces were added to the 2016 Manitou family.
We all met back on Main Field for a quick flagpole to introduce the directing team (after 18 years, Mark and Jeff still plan to do a camp-wide toilet demonstration where Mark plays the toilet), then headed into the dining hall for a wonderful traditional dinner of chicken burgers, curly fries and brownies for dessert. YUM! In case you hadn’t heard, Manitou has an all-new kitchen staff this year headed up by the wonderful Chef Gates, pastry chef Aimee, and special diets chef Vanessa. All the staff have commented on how food during pre-camp was outstanding, and from the looks on campers’ faces after dinner, we’re pretty sure they like it too!
While our Freshkids — seven, eight and nine years old — ran out to experience the Activity Fair and meet their activity heads, our Sophomore, Junior and Senior units met to learn cheers for their units. Even though the years pass and music tastes change, we still heard rousing choruses of “Ain’t No Flies on Us” and “Jump Shake Your Booty” from every corner of camp.
The CITs, meanwhile, moved into their wonderful village just past the camp gates, then headed down to the waterfront to complete their swim checks in preparation for their upcoming canoe trip.
After all was said and done, everyone went back to their respective cabins to unpack, make their beds and settle in for what’s looking like another clear Manitou night under the stars.
Parents, if you’re reading, rest assured: your kids are safe and sound, and we couldn’t be more excited to give them the best summer ever.
The Manitou Team
Some important thoughts from Flagpole:
With only a few hours until the first campers arrive, we can’t wait to raise the flag and welcome over 400 members to our Manitou family for another unforgettable summer.
There are so many summer camps out there to consider, and we know how tough it can be to figure out which one “fits.” You want a place that has a certain magic; a place where your child can mature and have their interests and passions enriched, and do it all while having fun. You want a place that feels like family… and you chose Manitou.
At Manitou, we aim to do more than entertain. We aim to engage. We give kids the tools and support to learn more about themselves, their potential and how they can influence the world around them. And as a result, Manitou kids stand out from other camp kids. Their summers aren’t just fun — they’re fulfilling.
No one knows this better than our counsellors, many of whom have spent years growing up here themselves as campers. Our counsellors are the ultimate cheerleaders. It is astounding to have watched them grow up before our very eyes, from wide-eyed kids into independent, respectful and compassionate young leaders. They now know exactly how to give their campers the kind of memorable experiences that kept them coming back year after year.
It’s also why, after 18 years, we still have the same energy, drive and thirst to make this the best summer ever. We might be even more excited than your kids!
This year, instead of weekly newsletters, we’re going to try something new and do shorter blog posts throughout the week, so check our home page blog regularly for that. For now, we’re just finishing pre-camp with our staff and wanted to leave you with some thoughts.
This year’s preparatory sessions at pre-camp focused on the word “Listen.” Who would have thought such a simple word could inspire so many hours of discussion and guidance? Interesting, too, that the word “Silent” uses the same letters (we learned that with guest speaker Joey Rich in summer 2015).
All week long, we’ve talked about what children really want from the adults: someone to listen to them, to make them feel special and valued. We learned that you listen with “not your ears, but your eyes, heart, and gut.” And speaking of heart, our staff in pre-camp this summer has demonstrated a whole lot of it. They’ve blown us away with their dedication and insights.
This year, we even saw our first year staff contributing to the sessions. When younger staff take the lead, it sends a powerful message to our old timers and sets a positive tone for the summer. As many of you know, we cover over 40 sessions with our staff in pre-camp, from first aid training and waterfront safety to bullying and homesickness. We go over emergency procedures and proper staff supervision; we teach risk management and team-building; we share the importance of outreach, value-based programming and canoe tripping, and so much more. With such a wide range of topics covered it can be daunting to junior staff, but already many of them have come forward with exciting ideas for the summer.
We always say to our staff that if you have an idea at Manitou, we’ll make it happen. In the first few days of pre-camp alone, a few staff have put together a first-month program that ties in wonderfully with our Manitou Cares program: a decathlon-style event to benefit the Amani home, the charity we’re helping this year.
Guest speaker and relationship-building expert Dr. Karyn Gordon came up to inspire us with a session on friendship. She identified the three key factors of friendship — to be kind, inclusive and assertive, or “KIA”— and used a great skit to tie these values back to camp.
Our junior staff stepped up especially in this session to play three typical categories of campers (in disguise of pop celebrities): the child who has low self-esteem, the child who is bossy and brings others down, and the child who has self-respect, a positive outlook and always offers others a second chance. You had to see it in action; she received a rousing ovation at the end of her session.
Every summer, we strive to develop campers’ self-esteem and teach them how to speak up when they feel someone is not being kind. We want these kids to leave camp with not only a sense of family, but also a sense of individuality.
Staff training does not stop during pre-camp. All of our head staff will be mentoring the counsellors all summer long with ongoing training sessions. The incredible Joey Rich will be coming up to camp after the first ten days to do a workshop session with the staff and CITS. We have some wonderful speakers slated to appear for all staff and campers throughout the summer: Talli Osborne, born with no arms and legs, has confronted a childhood of horrific bullying but has overcome all odds to lead a fulfilling life. Spencer West, from the non-profit organization Me to We, will talk about his climb up Mount Kilimanjaro (with no legs). We are also proud to announce a special speaker coming up to camp from the aboriginal community, who will be meeting with our LITs and CITs to discuss history, the racism that has existed (including the residential schools), and how the very land we live on here was once occupied by the First Nations community. Among the other meaningful messages these speakers will give your kids, they all embrace our Friday Night Fireside theme, “Redefine Possible.” We hope your kids will realize that their potential is unlimited.
In closing, thank you for allowing us the privilege of guiding your children through a magical summer camp experience as part of our family. Our greatest reward is seeing them off as they depart Manitou for life back at home, brimming with newfound confidence, friends, happiness and memories to last a lifetime.
Mark, Jeff, Dave, Jen and Elijah
Who doesn’t love receiving a letter? There is nothing better than opening up mail, seeing the handwriting and the personal touch that goes with every word and thought. The key to a good letter is that its descriptive and starts off letting your child know how lucky they are to be at camp. To indicate you are so proud of them and that you want to hear all about their stories, activities and adventures. The key is asking lots of questions that lead the child to think about the wonderful things that camp offers. That means asking about their friends, the staff, the activities, their favourite meal, etc. There is a big difference between saying have you made friends and what is the food like versus saying “what is your favourite meal so far and is there anyone you have become friendly with yet? Talking about home is fine if it’s positive news only but don’t talk about all the fun things at home for obvious reasons. The key is to think – “Am I writing anything in this letter that my child is unable to do anything about and will make them upset or worry.” If your child is not a first time camper or a bit older you may want to discuss their goals for the summer in terms of skills or leadership. When closing off, it’s not a great idea to say you miss them because it can make them feel guilty for being there. Instead a simple “I love you so much and wish I was as lucky as you to be at camp”.