Happy 4th of July!

After basking in a sea of red and white for our exciting Canada 150 celebrations, the enthusiasm at camp couldn’t be higher! Chef William treated us royally on July 1st with Red and White Waffles followed by some world class poutine at lunch – a real Canadian hit! Today we celebrated our US campers and staff with a Happy Independence Day and added some blue to the colorful display of patriotism here at Manitou.
Maybe the silver lining in the soggy lead-up to camp is that we sure do appreciate it when the sun is shining and the skies are blue. There’s plenty to do around here when it rains but nothing beats the energy of a real summer day. The amazing blueberry smoothies whipped up by our kitchen crew provided just the right pick-me-up midday and our new Mastercraft ski boat was working overtime as camp positively exploded with excitement!
Our CITs rolled back into camp today with plenty of stories after an inspiring four-day canoe trip in Killarney. Campers have settled in beautifully and are loving our new fitness studio and we’ve even enjoyed the occasional sunset cruise on our new pontoon boat. There’s no better way to appreciate all that surrounds us here than to witness it at its most peaceful time of day. So much to be thankful for as the sun goes down on day 6 here at Manitou!
I’ve got to go now, it’s cabin activity night, where so many campers will have a chance to try something new and even for the first time! Can’t wait to see the excitement on their faces! After the activities we have lots of camp fires going and my guess is we can sample more than a few s’mores!
Keep you posted,
Manny

The First Days of Camp Kick Off with an Inspiring Fireside

Camp has started off as smooth as ever!  The sun was even shining for much of Friday although today is pretty darn wet and stormy. But we got through it with a fun music lunch that went into rest hour!

But speaking of Friday, Friday Night Fireside continued to be an inspiring event for the entire camp.

At Fireside, we talked about the 10 magical expectations for how we treat each other. We spoke about and reminded our campers that the lands we occupy were once the lands of indigenous peoples. We therefore must remember to have respect and thank the original community that inhabited these lands.

Our wonderful speakers at Fireside for CAMP IS, truly inspired us all. Here are some quotes from our speakers, all campers that came to Manitou for the first time last summer except for one; starting with freshkids and moving up to our oldest campers:

 

“One of my favourite activities was the Candy Olympics.  I love camp because of all the new friends you make and I love camp because of all the new activities you get to try.  One of my favourite cabin activities was when we were spies and had many different missions”.

 

“At first I was worried about coming to this new place and not knowing anyone and I was worried about being homesick . It didn’t take long to get to know the awesome guys in F3 and soon I started to feel comfortable and then the fun began…I never would have imagined I would make such great friends….the counsellors I had were awesome…if you are homesick I recommend you share your true feelings with your counsellors as they are really good at helping you out and making you feel better.”

 

“When I first got to camp last year I was very nervous, I missed home and I was worried about a lot of things, but these feelings soon went way…everyone in my cabin was so nice and welcoming… Although I was scared, camp became one of the greatest parts of my life….I can’t tell you how lucky I am feel to have the privilege to spend my summer in such an incredible place with so many incredible people as I know that there are many kids who cannot and will never be able to experience what we do here. Remember that all we really need and what is important is each other!!  Our memories and friendships will last a lifetime.”

 

“I have been waiting to come back here since the day I left. I am so excited to see all my friends from last year. Camp to me is meeting new people from different parts of the world…spending days and nights with friends, laughing a lot and being outdoors.”

 

“I chose to come back to camp because I made so many amazing friends and had so much fun at the activities.  I instantly had sooooo many friends and they are all very nice.  Last year I tried two new activities which became my favourites.  I am really excited for this year and I am sure you are too.”

 

“Hola, Amigos. I was really nervous for the first days out of home, alone, in a different country.  I have great news for you.  At Manitou you only need to say hi to someone and they will become your friend.  In the city you have to deal with so much stress, everybody telling you how to dress and what to do at school, but here, Manitou disconnects you from the outside world.  For example, normally you spend a lot of time looking at screens or thinking I can get more followers on Instagram, Facebook, etc., but at Manitou, you don’t have to worry about school, homework, or technology. The food here is incredible…I hope this will be your happiest summer ever!”

 

“A year and a half ago I decided to try sleepover camp for the first time.  I was nervous about spending a whole month away from my family and spending it with mostly girls I had never met before.  Many kids have come to camp for years and years and I was worried I wouldn’t fit in with them, so deciding to go to camp was a big decision to make, but I am so glad I did. But when I got off the bus I was overwhelmed with the amount of spirit and enthusiasm of all the campers while greeting their counsellors.  I went home with a million unforgettable memories with old and new friends. I can now look back and say that last summer was the best summer of my life, thanks to Manitou. For me, I learned not to judge anything before experiencing it for myself.”

 

And from an old timer – “my first summer I flew without my parents for the first time and traveled for almost nine hours to an unknown place. I was scared and nervous to say the least.

However, upon my first arrival it felt like home.  I was greeted by a tunnel of smiling faces …when I recall these incredible seven years it is the people I was with that made those years so special…Over the next seven years I would go on to make unbelievable memories as well as friendships. I only hope that any camper struggling with being in a new environment or being away from home can find a home at Manitou because Camp Manitou is truly like a second home.

 

How fortunate are we that our campers often say it best!

Staff Training is Preparing Us for the Best Summer Ever!

Everyone knows that all summer long we say it’s the “Best summer ever.” Well, this year we clearly have one of the most dedicated, kindest group of staff you will ever find.  The old-timers keep coming up to us remarking on how the new staff are just such good people and fit in so well.  The new staff are saying how easy it is to integrate with the old.  To be honest, this is often the case, but this year it’s at a whole new level and we are so excited!

Once again, discussions in pre-camp have covered everything from how to create a culture of respect to sessions on bullying, inclusion, homesickness, first-aid training, health and wellness, risk management, rules, policies, emergency procedures, supervision, leadership, programming, activity scheduling, team building, staff role modeling, how to instill gratitude in children, safe play, what makes an exceptional counsellor, discipline versus punishment, the value of canoe tripping, typical behavior and expectations of campers, as well as about fifteen other topics.

Each year we also emphasize a few areas and so we concentrated a little more on counsellor training with respect to raising your voice, getting frustrated, as well as challenges with today’s youth in respect to mental illness and of course anxiety.

Our session on role modelling, really hit home when we played examples of typical music that kids listen to today and the challenges we have with what is permitted in daily life.

Mike Levinsky was our guest speaker this year. He did an interactive session on positive reinforcement.  He showed in a humorous, but meaningful session that if you ask someone to do a simple task in a positive way, it takes two minutes to complete, but if you ask in a negative way it takes six or seven.  He also did a “tableau” role play workshop teaching staff not to label their campers and look for the best in all of them. The staff said it was one of the highlights of their staff training! Mike also had the entire staff dancing with fun routines illustrating how you can make any task fun for your kids, even cleaning up!

Tuesday at Manitou featured an incredible day of professional development. First-Aid training was spearheaded by Shendy’s own Eric Shendleman, who spent the day on First-Aid and CPR. Then the fun truly began with Sandy Foster, who once again did an incredible session about how not to just accept a good idea or program, but to challenge yourself to take it to the next level.

We could go on forever, but let us end off with some wonderful words from a long time staff member who spoke to our staff team and said this:

This summer will be my tenth year at Manitou. Over my first nine years I have been to camp for a total of 12 months, an entire year. This year of my life has been the most important and significant in developing as a person and becoming a leader at camp and back home…Being a staff member is very different than being a camper.  As a camper you basically only worry about triple tuck and getting basketball and ski on your schedule.  Things change when you become a staff member. You develop a leadership role at camp and are in charge of delivering the campers the summer of their lives.  Being a camper is fun but being a staff member is rewarding.  Seeing the growth and happiness of your campers is what makes your summer and theirs that much better.

For the first year staff it’s a hard and quick transition to make but as the closet people in age to the campers, it’s important to reason with the kids, build connections with them and develop trust through friendship. For the new staff members, camp is nothing you would expect.  Bring whatever leadership traits and positivity you have to camp.  Furthermore, there is a need for respect and trust in order to do a good job.  As well, your cos, fellow staff, Unit heads and head staff will help you transition and succeed on the job.   You will make the best friends in the cabin with your new cos and campers that will last forever.

To me, Camp gets better every year… And as staff members it’s important that we all give the kids the summer we had when we were campers and go home with no regrets on doing so.

How we could have the most positive beginning to camp after our eight days of pre camp training is actually remarkable considering we have had the worst weather since we started 19 years ago.  The good news is that this staff appear to be so resilient, as nothing gets in their way.