So, we have something to confess: we can’t stop thinking about last night’s Friday Night Fireside. For those of you new to Manitou, FNF is a weekly ceremony that honours campers, staff and members of the Manitou community elsewhere in the world who exemplify the values we stand for, such as embracing difference, giving back and being true to oneself.
And in addition to giving out camper and staff candles, we heard a number of campers speak about what “Camp Is.”
While it’s always a joy to hear the speeches campers give at Fireside, last night’s young speakers stood out especially as a creative, charismatic group with unique zest for life. Each speaker talked about camp with panache and originality, and many of their speeches received standing ovations.
Us older folks have a penchant for simplicity, so it’s these little moments in camp that remind us why we keep coming back year after year. Here are some of the highlights. Continue reading “TGIF: why we’re still thinking about Friday Night Fireside”
Manitou has been positively abuzz with energy these past couple of days! From the moment our second session campers got off the buses, they’ve been made to feel at home here at camp. They’ve met their cabinmates, been introduced to all of our camp activities and head staff, passed their health and swim checks flying colours, and spent yesterday’s first full evening with their units doing awesome programs: garbage bag fashion shows, inner beauty pageants, painting competitions, and magic shows.
Frankly, every day at Manitou seems to have something extra-special going on! Yesterday we welcomed Owen Tippett, an incredible 17-year-old hockey player with the Mississauga Steelheads who is currently slated to be fourth pick in next year’s NHL draft. Tippett played pickup games with campers of all ages during the afternoon, and held a Q&A where he shared wonderfully positive messages about self-discipline, following your dreams, and taking care of your body by eating properly and staying above the influence.
In addition to all of the great stuff going on in camp, many cabins have also signed up to go on canoe trips this session! We’re looking forward to a busy tripping program to round out what’s already shaping up to be our best summer ever.
You’ll want to stay tuned for news of all of our exciting campwide programs this month — where first session promises a carnival, Rookie Day and Tribal Games, second session has Halloween, Art in the Park and World Games!
For now, get a “read” on the latest and greatest in Manitou campers’ news by taking a peek at the latest edition of the Manitou Mosquito. And have a great weekend!
Manny Moose & The Entire Manitou Family
For many of you, this post arrives just hours after your kids did. Main field was a scene of tearful hugs and final photographs this morning as our first session campers boarded the buses to head home. It’s been an amazing month at Manitou, one half of what we’re sure will go down in the books as our “Best Summer Ever.” Here are some snapshots of what’s been going on: Continue reading “Closing thoughts on an amazing first session”
Last Friday evening, we had a special Manitou treat. Guest speaker Maurice Switzer came to us from the Mississaugas of Alderville First Nations community. During our weekly Fireside ceremony, Maurice shared with us a history of the Manitou land we’ve come to call home, as well as the origin and meaning of the Native word “Manitou.” The word means spirit, referring to a life force that animates all beings — humans, animals, and nature.
Many of us go out to experience nature, only to end up documenting it on social media without actually respecting it or breathing it in. These days, even cottages are wifi and HDTV-equipped. Manitou prides itself on the absence of digital distraction, but then, here we are blogging twice a week.
So, how do we reverse the effects of our internet-addled culture? How do we learn to see the sunsets again, to commune with our natural surroundings as they exist?
At Manitou, this question lies at the heart of our Friday Night Fireside ritual. Every Friday night we gather at the edge of camp, as far away from digital distraction as the land allows. And beneath a sun-dappled awning of tall trees, we sit together and stare out onto the lake. We light candles. We read poems. We sing. And if we’re lucky, this sense of inner peace carries us through to the following Friday.
While this ritual is embedded in the camp’s 18-year history under Mark and Jeff, it is by no means the superlative history of Camp Manitou. Before us, there were those that settled the land we walk on every summer. That’s why we so loved the camp dialogue that Maurice’s words began. Respect for the environment may seem intrinsic to the Aboriginal community, but it is still a value they instill among their people. Respect is learned, even as it is lived.
Maurice Switzer also spoke to our CIT group about Native culture, what it means to smudge, and how to cultivate empathy (another topic we’re always thinking about). We’re excited to announce that for the first time, CITs will have the opportunity to visit a local reservation near Parry Sound for their Pow-wow ceremony and to learn about the crafts they produce.
It is thanks to the efforts of community organizers like Maurice Switzer that Canadians are finally becoming aware of the systemic racism that has affected, and continues to affect, all Aboriginal peoples. And unfortunately for all of our consciences, summer camps are still run on lands that were taken away from indigenous communities.
Manitou is no exception, but we work daily to cultivate an intrinsic awe at our natural surroundings and our historic heritage that might one day seem synonymous with camp again. It is the first step toward seeing the sunset for what it is.
Manny the Moose & The Entire Manitou Family
As we wave goodbye to some of our first session freshkid campers, we’re taking stock of these past two wonderful weeks at Camp Manitou. We’ve had unprecedentedly low levels of homesickness, and seen an astounding number of smiling faces all summer long.
This is due, without a doubt, to the strength of our staff. From the counselors who sleep in camper cabins to our director and medical team, we’re seeing a level of dedication and commitment to these kids that parallels the commitment one demonstrates to one’s own family.
Rest assured that at Manitou, the values we teach the kids as campers are the same values that you as parents inculcate all year long. Heck, when we talk about a sense of “family” at Manitou, we’re talking about the very bonds these kids form with one another. They get along like siblings! And in doing so, they learn that conflict or disagreement is normal and healthy.
In one of our earlier blog posts, we referenced a poem about friendship that was read to the staff during pre-camp. An excerpt:
A simple friend thinks the friendship is over when you have an argument.
A real friend knows that it’s not a friendship until after you have a fight.
It’s true: relationships are stronger for their hills and valleys. It’s how you deal with the issues that inevitably come up, and how you resolve them, that defines the nature of your bond. (It goes without saying, mind you, that we have zero tolerance for bullying. Exclusion, too, is unacceptable.)
Conflict arises from difference… but at Manitou, we embrace difference. We are lucky to be so unalike, frankly, because it is only in the space between the things we have in common that learning and understanding actually happens.
So we communicate this to the kids every chance we get. Our eight-member director team functions not as a disciplinary committee, but as a support system and a teaching body that hands down the tools for conflict resolution, relationship-building and self-confidence.
Just the other day, we had a minor issue among a teenage girls’ cabin. A typical scenario for their age, no doubt, but an opportunity nonetheless. Not only did we help the girls work out their immediate issues in a group setting, but also we met with each camper individually to emphasize the need for empathy. The short term payoff is just getting along again, but the long term result is a deeper understanding of how to embrace difference in every human relationship.
Camp is a microcosm of the world. And each year, as the world becomes a more complex and instant-access place, the issues at summer camp follow suit. Camp directors and educators have determined that Anxiety is the most common health problem among today’s youth, and this can often prove a challenging obstacle in dealing with and embracing difference.
This past week, we had esteemed speaker and TV personality Joey Rich come to camp to discuss the topic. He spent time with our unit heads, our CITs, and finally our entire staff team.
Joey knows all too well that mental health is a factor easily glossed over when dealing with camper issues, and that anxiety can be stigmatized as “irrational” behaviour. But in his engaging talks with the staff and CIT campers, Joey reminded us that Anxiety is just another form of Difference. And like any other issue unique to certain kids, it deserves to be embraced, supported and understood.
For kids with anxiety, Joey explained, any possible future event is real — even if it hasn’t occurred yet. Some children become obsessed with the future; others concentrate solely on the past. In most cases, there is a pressure to be “perfect.” But regardless of how Anxiety manifests in a camper, he or she should not be dismissed.
Our best resources at camp to work with anxious kids are our staff. We may not all be trained therapists and psychologists, but every single staff member is well-versed in empathy, a hallmark of the Manitou everyday. Everything else, they learn along the way from getting to work with these kids at camp — and from experts like Joey Rich.
On that note, we’re proud to announce that on November 9th, we’ll have guest speaker Leonard Sax flying into Toronto all the way from Chicago to speak to Manitou parents about Anxiety’s growing prevalence among kids, and about strategies to reduce your child’s anxiety in a social media-driven digital age. After hearing Leonard give his talk his past spring, we booked him right away so the parents could benefit from his resources. (It’s chock full of tools you can implement the second you get home!)
So hey, that’s what’s on our mind this week. Difference counts. We’re not afraid to deal with things that fall outside of ordinary, because we know from the past 18 years that every camper has the potential to be extraordinary.
Thank you for entrusting us with your wonderful, special kids. We cherish every day with them and can’t wait to see how they leave their legacy at Manitou.
All year long, we look forward to the summer heat. But once it gets here, we realize how draining it can be! That’s why at camp we always put special emphasis on the old refrain of “hats, sunscreen and plenty of water.”
Yesterday’s temps got up pretty high, but we saw hats galore, and our staff were extra vigilant about keeping the kids SPF-covered and hydrated. What’s more, we made it all worthwhile by turning the afternoon into a giant outdoor carnival!
For one summer day each season, Manitou’s main field is awash with colour and sound as bouncing inflatable castles, slides and obstacles courses take over the green. Kids can joust, groove to music, munch on carnival snacks like popcorn and candy floss…. and most importantly, cool off with sno-cones and shaded rest areas.
After an afternoon of carnival games and an outdoor dinner, everyone was ushered into the hangar for a massive dance party. We didn’t think we’d ever top last week’s float parade, but Spirit’s DJs stayed true to their name, keeping kids hyped until their respective units’ last songs were played and they ambled off to bed.
And while we may not have a carnival for every hot day at camp, a cooling dip in Lake Manitouwabing is never more than a few steps away.
Warm, warm wishes,
Manny Moose & the entire Manitou Family
ICYMI in our newsletters this past year, Manitou has a new program on campus. It’s our very own cooking workshop, otherwise known as Culinary Arts!
The story: For a long time, we kept noticing how much our campers loved cooking the veggies they grew at Greenhouse, or getting creative with edible crafts in various activities on Art Hill. From program director emeritus Jay Wengle’s infamous candy apples to the canoe trippers’ tasty cereal marshmallow treats, baking and cooking has become a much sought-after pastime here at Manitou.
And now, there’s a place where the kids can do it all. Under the watchful guidance of professional chef Victoria Hobal, campers of all ages head over to the stunning new Culinary Arts building to prepare everything from cookies to pizza dough with shiny new kitchen utensils and moose aprons!
Last week’s menu included chocolate granola with pears and crème fraîche. Yep, seriously.
Wanna see it in action? Check out this adorable intro video we made featuring some of the camp directors’ tiny tots making jello orange slices! [Note: this is a dramatization featuring babies. Any resemblance to actual Manitou campers is purely coincidental.]
Today, the campers are making margherita pizzas, and in the afternoon, they’ll be cooking soup for charity with Soup Sisters and donating it to women’s shelters across the region.
For us, that’s the real takeaway. We’re thrilled to have this engaging new program at Manitou that combines creativity and community, that offers a sense of both personal and greater reward. The kids are thrilled, too.
Manny the “Mousse” & the Manitou Family
Hey, Manitou! How do you feel? (We feel good.)
This past Friday, all of camp gathered for an extra special Fireside celebration. Storm clouds were rolling in, though, so we quickly relocated our ceremony to the theater. The oldest building in camp turned out to be the perfect venue for new perspectives, offered up by our youngest campers, and then by our terrific guest, Talli Osborne.
Osborne, born with a condition that shortened her legs and left her without arms, has been touring the country for years as a punk rock inspirational speaker. At just three and a half feet tall, with jet pink hair combed to the side and a pinging, cheerful voice, Osborne was a magnetic energy in our packed-out theater.
“People only see what I’m missing,” Osborne said. “But I like to focus on what I have. I feel incredibly fortunate. I have a great family and friends, an awesome job, and a man that loves me. How many people can say all of that?”
In addition to recounting a few of her own experiences at summer camp, Osborne shared stories of being bullied and harassed for her appearance, and of growing up adopted in a house with 19 other adopted siblings.
“Looking around the dinner table was the first time I learned how different everyone can be,” she told us. “And I learned to love those differences.”
Talli chose to stand in the sea of campers instead of on the stage. She was both physically and figuratively ‘on their level,’ and her stories were met with wide-eyed wonder and understanding. Our freshkid speakers, meanwhile, delivered speeches that related to Osborne’s own, emphasizing the need to focus on what they have (camp) rather than what they’re missing (their parents), and not to judge life experiences simply by how they appear.
Carter, Charlie and Hudson’s collective speech once again reminded us all how cool it is to pick your own schedule of activities at Manitou.
Carter: “To be successful at Camp Manitou, […] make sure you choose the activities you really want.”
Charlie: “You shouldn’t be afraid to meet new people and try new activities.”
Husdon: “I like woodworking, because I get to make cool things and take them home.”
Olivia, Charlotte and Adria all spoke about conquering their fears.
Olivia: “When I went to ropes, everything looked sooo high. […] But then the staff helped me and showed me what to do. And all of my fears went away.”
Charlotte: “When I went waterskiing, I was really nervous that I was going to fall. […] But it was really fun, and there was nothing to be afraid of.”
Adria: “At the swimming test, I thought it was going to be really hard. But when I got in the lake, it wasn’t that hard.”
The amazing thing about kids is that they use the simplest language to describe the deepest truths. Using ropes, waterski and swimming as individual examples, together they were saying that nothing is impossible. Even if it looks intimidating at first, guidance and trust goes a long way. Abby, Eden, Lilly and Isla, three girls from the Freshkid unit, also overcame their camp fears.
Abby: “I thought it would be impossible to do ropes, because I’m scared of heights. But I conquered my fear and climbed really high.”
Eden: “I didn’t know if I would be able to sleep away from my parents for more than one night. However, I made lots of friends and I’m having so much fun at camp!”
Lilly: “I thought it would be impossible to have as much fun as last year. However, it’s only the second week and I’ve already had so much fun. […] I’m going to love camp even more than last year.”
Isla: “I thought that Lilly would be my only friend, but over the next two weeks, I found lots of new friends.”
These girls talked not only about conquering fears, but also about reaping the rewards of their courage. For Abby, it was a new personal achievement. For Eden, an independence that will carry over into future years at camp. For Lilly, proof that camp can be better than best. And for Isla, it was discovering how she could make more than one lasting relationship at camp at a time.
Campers Stella and Layla told the story of Bethany Hamilton, a surfer who lost her arm to a shark.
“From that day on, she surfed,” the girls said. “In a big competition, she came in 5th place. She is now famous. Take Bethany as a role model.”
Along with Osborne, Hamilton’s story epitomizes our Fireside theme of redefining “possible.”
Freshkid Brandon spoke about another iconic hero, Neil Armstrong.
“Putting a man on the moon was once thought impossible,” he said. “But just like Neil Armstrong, we’re here to redefine possibility.” For Brandon, things as simple as seeing the camp gathered together or having respect for nature are forms of challenging what’s possible.
Finally, campers Alexa and Zoe shared some new things they learned this summer: waterski and sail, respectively.
“We just want to let you know that you can do anything if you put your mind to it,” the girls said. “We hope you are all having a great time, because we are having the best summer ever!!”
We hope you’re having the best summer ever, too, wherever you’re spending it. If you’re redefining possible in your own life in some way, let us know in the comments section! We’d love to hear your story.
Manny Moose and the entire Manitou Family
Ask adults in any big city, and you’ll hear about how they love their lazy summers. Hammocks, cold drinks, and long naps on the beach are the tenets of the season. But ask any of the adults at a summer camp, and you’ll get a totally different answer. The grownups are as keen to get active as the kids. And without a doubt, the past few days at camp have been some of our busiest and buzziest to date, for campers and staff alike!
First, the staff got to see Mike Plume live in concert. Plume is a Manitou legend, so his annual visits are awaited with much anticipation. Once again, he gave us an unforgettable night of soulful blues and catchy rock tutes, playing through his new songs alongside the old favourites we’ve had stuck in our heads all year long (Manitou folk are some of Plume’s biggest fans). As many of you know, Plume also used to head up our very own Rock program before moving on to a life of touring and full-time music making. Suffice it to say, we like the guy. And we’re pretty lucky he likes us back.
Then, this morning, something big happened.
The whole camp was called down to the main path at 8:30am; no one knew why. At first, there was silence. Then, out of nowhere, the sound of bagpipes. CIT Coordinator Alec Amato appeared around the road’s bend with a piper, brandishing his royal scepter and leading what turned out to be a bonafide FLOAT PARADE.
Float after float followed Amato’s lead; it was truly unbelievable! The head staff had put together all kinds of themed carts and trucks. You’d think that you saw it on Mulberry street: a mariachi band, dancers, a fully costumed “Just Married” couple in their buggy, a drumline of kitchen buckets, Tony the Tiger and Manny the Moose, a live rock band on a flatbed, Sole Power entertainers dressed as Drake and the Week’nd, jugglers, a pirate ship, a luau skiboat, a firetruck, a dump truck full of revelers spraying silly string and bubbles, canoe trippers portaging canoes, a king on a throne, camp dogs, a decorated lawnmower, and even a Christmas sleigh pulling “Santa” and her reindeer.
As campers fell in line behind the floats, the parade weaved its way over to the hangar, where Sole Power’s DJ team was waiting with a “Breakfast in Paradise” themed dance party featuring muffins, danishes, fresh fruit and free baseball caps.
The dance was over by 9:15AM, and activity periods continued as planned. No traces of the floats remained. Was it all a dream? Only the occasional Sole Power baseball cap seen around camp proves it wasn’t.
Lastly, an impromptu election season is upon us. As the US primaries continue, Canada’s getting its own dose of political action right here at Manitou! Jeff and Mark have been warring for the title of “King” of Manitou, Mark being especially adamant with a political platform of quintuple tuck. Both directors have taken every opportunity to denounce one another as undercover Trump supporters or vegetable-lovers, and camp is heating up in a political frenzy!
On July 4, another head staff member was introduced into the electoral race. We expect to see more candidates coming out of the woodwork as the weeks go on — maybe even Manny will run. We’ll keep you posted as the ballots roll in.
Oh, and one more thing: our first edition of the Manitou Mosquito is hot off the presses! Click here to check out the writerly talents of our creative Manitou family.
At Manitou, one of our best-loved weekly rituals is Friday Night Fireside. After Friday’s dinner each week, campers and staff gather around a crackling fire next to a peaceful spot on the lake in order to watch the sunset, reflect on the past week, and think about what it is that makes each of us an individual with unlimited potential to effect positive change.
Due to the current fire ban in the Parry Sound region and a rained out Friday night, we held a fireless fireside on Saturday evening. It was amazing to see everyone go with the flow and maintain a sense of the significance of the occasion. Every day at camp is one of learning, community-building and reflection, but there are some values you really come to embrace at Friday Night Fireside.
Whether these values came from our campers’ “Camp Is” speeches this week, from the heartwarming story of a resident of the Amani Home, or simply from the tried-and-true Manitou song and poem we do without fail every Fireside, here are three things campers and staff took away from last night’s special evening.
1. You can find lifelong friends in unlikely places.
A junior camper, Zack, spoke beautifully about his camp experience. This being his second year, Zach put the focus on how camp can really surprise you, from the activities you end up loving to the friends you end up making.
“I guarantee you’ll make at least one new friend at camp,” he said. “It might even be me, that’s your new friend.”
Something we often take for granted is that friendship knows no age, gender or lifestyle. As we learned from Dr. Karyn Gordon, the best friends are simply those who are kind, inclusive and assertive.
A Freshkid camper, Lilly, wrote: “I was a bit scared when I first started, but then I met the people who are now my friends and it started to feel like home.”
That’s the other thing we take for granted about friendships: they’re as strong as family. During pre-camp, the staff heard a poem that explained the difference between simple friends and real friends:
A simple friend has never seen you cry.
A real friend has shoulders soggy from your tears. […]
A simple friend hates it when you call after he has gone to bed.
A real friend asks you why you took so long to call.
It was clear from their thoughtful words that all of our “Camp Is” speakers had found real friends at Manitou. No two origin stories of true friendships are alike, but the strength of those friendships is universal.
“Camp Is” speaker Natalie’s (rhyming!) message about friendship was not lost on us, either:
“Friends we make here are so special, fun and clever,
The memories we create, will truly last forever.”
It might be said, then, that a simple friend is one you remember, but a real friend is one who shares your memories.
2. You don’t “get” what camp is about until you experience it for the first time. Then, it’s everything.
There’s a reason that generations of family end up at summer camp. It has nothing to do with tradition, and everything to do with the passing down of an inimitable experience that goes beyond words.
Another “Camp Is” speaker, Joey, is now in his second year at camp. He shared two things we couldn’t have said better:
“I want to acknowledge that coming to camp for the first time takes a lot of bravery.”
“From the first moment through the gate, I knew that this place would be unlike anywhere I had been before.”
The first year at camp can be overwhelming, as many of our speakers acknowledged first-hand. It’s hundreds of people you’ve never met, it’s buzzing with nonstop energy, and there seems to be an endless stream of inside jokes or longstanding traditions you don’t understand. But Joey had some thoughts on what camp quickly came to mean to him after that first moment through the gate:
“Being able to be with your friends. That’s camp. Having a sense of independence. That’s camp. But really take a second and think about it, you are sitting around a campfire, smelling the s’mores fresh out of the fire. Your section heads singing you songs, while some of the staff are strumming their guitars. That’s camp. At Manitou, I feel important. This camp makes you feel important.”
We always talk about how much can be accomplished in “camp time.” This place exists on a clock that runs almost like a dream, where mere minutes here seem like hours or days. So much can be learned and accomplished here, such strong bonds with others can be formed. In a matter of hours, you can go from feeling nervous about a group of strangers to feeling like a camp celebrity among your friends and counsellors.
Freshkid and second year camper Ava made a speech with a great point about trying things for the first time: “I hated the lake, but I recognized it’s not so bad.”
“For anyone that feels uneasy about getting used to camp,” said another speaker, Noah, “don’t worry. I promise you’ll love it.”
3. The greatest challenges make for the best memories.
Oftentimes in interviews or on applications for job opportunities, we’re asked to discuss past experiences where we exemplified qualities of teamwork, positivity or leadership. Which experiences jump to mind? The challenging ones, of course.
“Camp Is” speaker Justin talked about how last year at camp, he “got to try so many fun activities that [he] had never tried before like wakeboarding and photography.” He concluded by saying that he was excited to “make so many more memories and have another amazing summer.”
Another speaker, Josh, echoed this sentiment: “While we are at camp, we are experiencing things that we could have never encountered before.”
By providing those unique experiences, such as Adventure Park, waterski-ing and campwide competitions like Tribal Games or World Games, camp both challenges and enriches everyone who takes part in it. And it is those new and often challenging experiences that become emblazoned in our minds as seminal milestones, formative memories. We remember the times we struggled, whether joyfully or with some sorrow, and we use those memories in times of adversity to remind ourselves of how strong we truly are.
Challenges can be light-hearted, but they can also be serious and life-defining. At Fireside, Mark read out the story of one of the Amani Home’s longtime residents, Bertha.
“When [Bertha] came to Amani, it was very difficult to find out who she was, and the reason she was on the street. […] Bertha was very challenging in the beginning. She was always crying, always calling for attention and the staff had a hard time dealing with her. But she is much better now, she is in our in-house education program. […] We still don’t know what happened to her, but today she is so much calmer and happier than when she came.”
Because Amani’s staff didn’t give up on Bertha despite the challenge of getting to know her and her story, they gained her trust. They put their faith in her, and in turn, she put hers in them. Now, Bertha is off to public school and no longer living on the street. She is her own success story.
This year’s Fireside theme is “Redefine Possible.” Our two speakers later this summer, Spencer West and Talli Osborne, will talk about how they overcame all odds, and turned seemingly insurmountable challenges into personal narratives of triumph.
Stay tuned for blog posts, because we’ll be talking all summer long about these three ideas along with many others! But we’ll close off today’s post with a final meditation from a camper named Jamie, whose speech touched on something we can all especially relate to: dreaming of Manitou for all the other days of the year that we’re not here.
“During the year, I head dreams of being here and felt like it was real,” she wrote. “But then I remembered that I was never actually on the bus. Now that I have been on the bus and I’m finally here, I’m excited to do this all again!”