First Fireside 2019

Each Friday Night, our Manitou family gathers at Fireside for a peaceful and precious evening together. For years, parents have been asking us what Friday Night Fireside is like, so we thought we’d share a little video clip to give you all the Fireside experience! Because this video was from our first Fireside of the summer, we did not have camper candles, an honour given to a camper in each unit in recognition of their contributions to camp and values they stand for. Instead, we had our “Camp Is” speech ceremony, where we have campers speak about their past summers and what they want to say to new Manitou campers. On future Friday nights we will have amazing guest speakers who embody our theme of the summer “Don’t Stand By,” who will come and speak to the camp to inspire the campers and staff alike. Stay tuned for more Fireside updates during the summer, but for now here is a little glimpse of the magic of Fireside for you all…

First Fireside 2019

Exciting Beginnings!

Yahoo! Camp has started and it’s already on track as being the best summer ever! Yesterday was a little rainy here at camp, but that never brings down the Manitou spirit! Our campers did their Swim Checks –just to make sure everyone is safe down at the water–and the lake was nice and warm for everyone. For the rest of the day, the cabins rotated to different activities–some to activities they normally wouldn’t have on their schedule. It was so fun to see Junior Girls practicing their Taekwondo at Martial Arts and to see Sophomore Boys playing improv games at Drama! I love the enthusiasm of our campers already, and I can’t wait to see what everyone can accomplish.

After a tasty chicken dinner from Chef Will, the whole camp went down to our first full Friday Night Fireside of the summer. We started the peaceful evening with Rach Klein, our Head of Canoe Tripping, giving a land acknowledgement, a little speech to give thanks and remember the Indigenous people who first lived on our land. After that, Denise “Mama D” George, one of the creators of Friday Night Fireside, explained the theme for this summer “Don’t Stand By,” and I think all of our campers were already brainstorming how they can stand up for others and make a difference. We then heard from some fantastic ‘Camp Is’ speakers: a group of campers who speak about camp and what it means to them. Some campers talked about how they were new last year and how Manitou has made them more confident and better as a person. Some were longtime campers giving their advice to new homesick campers and telling them how much fun camp will become soon! It was so nice to hear from our Manitou family, and I know it meant a lot to some campers.

After a great night at Fireside, we had our first Evening Programs of the summer…always a fun night for everyone! For those of you who don’t know, Evening Programs take place almost every night, and it’s where units participate in some sort of special program together. I’ve seen everything from mock beauty pageants to dog shows (with counsellors as the dogs) to camp-wide capture the flag games. There’s nothing this old moose likes more than hearing the sound of campers laughing and seeing them running around and smiling. After a long and exciting day, our campers went to bed for a well-deserved sleep, and got some rest for a big day today!

Today our campers woke up for their first activity day, following the schedule they chose for themselves. I could feel the excitement at breakfast! Campers were planning their Pottery and Woodworking projects, and were talking about what they could accomplish at Waterski this summer. We also saw the C.I.T.s go on their annual canoe trip this morning– an amazing chance to bond as a group and explore the beautiful Canadian landscape! They will be paddling together, swimming, and cooking some homemade food over a big campfire. I can taste the roasted marshmallows just thinking about it, and I’m excited to hear all of their stories when they return.

Well, I’m going to walk around camp and see all of our campers at their activities! First to Dance, where my friend Edyn Karney is already planning an amazing Dance Show!

Yours Moosily,

Manny the Moose

Arrival Day!

Woohoo! My favourite day of the year is finally here: Arrival Day! Our campers have just stepped off the busses for Manitou 2019 and we’ve hit the ground running! When the busses started to pull up, I could feel the excitement in the air. Campers new and old — all smiling — ran off the bus into what is bound to be THE BEST SUMMER EVER! They ran through the Tunnel of Love, a tunnel of hands made by our Head Staff to welcome our campers into Manitou, and onto Main Field where their Counsellors were eagerly awaiting with their cabin signs. The reunions and the blooming friendships alike almost made this old Moose cry!

All the campers went to go settle in their cabins, and rest will be good for the big night ahead! After a bit of unpacking time, we will be going to the first official Flagpole of the year! Flagpole usually happens after dinner, and it’s when the whole camp meets on Main Field to hear the evening announcements. Tonight is a very special preview Flagpole where we will meet the Unit Head and Director team, so we’re doing it a little differently before dinner. And speaking of dinner, our amazing Head Chef will be cooking up another incredible meal…I’ve heard rumours of chicken burgers!

After dinner, our campers will go in their cabin groups to the Activity Fair! All of our Activity Heads and Specialists will be set up on Main Field with a little booth for their activity, trying to get as many campers as possible to sign up for it! Because Manitou is special and our campers have the opportunity to choose their own schedule, the Activity Fair is an important and fun place to go. I love going to see what our 35 creative Activity Heads come up with, and I know our campers will be excited to see them, too!

Once a cabin has gone through the Activity Fair, they’ll be able to sign up for the activities they’re interested in and write a postcard home! So keep checking your mailboxes for those beautiful Manitou postcards! Finally, the evening will end on a quieter note when we raise the flags. Campers who have birthdays today and last year’s Jordana Lokash Award winners will have the honour of raising the flags, and then it will OFFICIALLY be the start of Manitou 2019!

Well, I’m off to see if my Unit Head friends need any help unpacking their campers!

Yours Moosily,

Manny the Moose

Precamp 2019: Getting Ready for The Best Summer Ever!


Woohoo! The last two days have been jam-packed, and I’m one happy moose thinking about how close it is until our campers get here! We’re almost ready for what makes Manitou really great: the campers! Just some finishing touches, a little bit more training, and we’re ready to go!

On Monday, our staff had an exciting day! They did their First Aid and Waterfront training, did the Adventure Park as a unit so they could bond even more and have a little bit of fun, and heard from guest speaker Katy Albert, who enthusiastically gave tips about being a counsellor and working with kids. Katy is an Academic and Behaviour Coach, who specializes in children and adolescents with Autism Spectrum and other neuro-developmental disorders. She is great at educating about behavioural issues, and I think our staff learned a lot about different methods of dealing with various camper issues. After our great chat with Katy, we were off to dinner which was a little different than usual, as it was our “Birthday Themed Dinner!” This meant everyone would sit together with the people who were born in the same month as them. It was great to meet some new people and talk to friends I hadn’t seen in awhile! After dinner, the whole staff group heard from Manitou veterans Lanny and Julie Foster who told stories from their many years at camp and gave their top tips about being at camp. And then to finish off an already exciting day, our counsellor team found out which staff they would be paired with for their first session cabins. I could sense a lot of excitement in the air, and I think this may be the best counsellor group we’ve ever had! It was a fun way to an already exciting day.

Tuesday started as a nice cool day, which was perfect weather for moving duffels! The baggage trucks rolled into camp, and our staff team all worked together to move the duffels into their new homes: the cabins! It was great to see everyone helping each other out and supporting others, and I think we moved all the bags in a new record time! Our staff then met up in their activities and did some final touches, cleaning, and planning for fun programs. I think all the activities look amazing and I can’t wait to try them all! Our staff also had a very fun MHL (Manitou Hockey League) themed lunch, where everyone could sit with their team and start to bond…and strategize! I love watching the MHL games, and I’m excited to see who will pull out a big win this year! Tuesday’s lunch also ended with a nice inclusion dessert: a rainbow cake in honour of Pride Month and Camp Manitou’s mandate on inclusiveness and equality. I thought it was a very nice thing to do…and it tasted delicious too! Tuesday afternoon, our Culinary Arts and Tripping staff had the very special opportunity to work with Jordan Wagman, a noted Toronto chef, who worked with and inspired the staff on how to prepare delicious and healthy gourmet food while out on trip or in camp! We then had some more safety and information sessions, and then it was off to bed after a long day. I can’t wait to see what today’s already bright and sunny out!

I have to go now…it’s time to go see what’s cooking at Culinary Arts with my friend Arly Abramson!

Yours Moosily,

Manny the Moose

Precamp 2019: Busy Days and Fun in the Sun


Oh me oh my! It’s been busy the last couple days of Precamp, but I thought I’d stop for a minute and update you all on what’s been going on up here at camp!

Saturday afternoon, the last of our staff busses arrived and we got to welcome our counsellors to Precamp! I loved seeing smiles on everyone’s faces: new, old, and even some counsellors who grew up here and are making the leap to staff. Our counsellors excitedly found out their units, and that evening, after another incredible dinner from Chef Will, all of our staff went down to the lake and heard Mark and Jeff’s journey to Camp Manitou. After that, our staff participated in a special program full of team-building games, and our new staff were able to get a taste of that Manitou spirit. We then capped off Saturday night with the perfect campfire under the stars.

Sunday was a busy day, but the sun was shining on Camp Manitou, and we had beautiful weather all day long. Our counsellors did their swim tests, bonded with the other staff on their Unit and Activity, and they participated in our CANVAS training. CANVAS is a group that comes up to camp to train our staff in consent, and for the second summer in a row, our staff were extremely responsive and respectful during this important session. Our Head Staff also participated in the CANVAS training and other safety sessions, but they had a little fun of their own in the afternoon when they had a Head Staff Salsa Dancing Lesson/Competition. It was so fun to see all of my Activity Head and Specialist friends dancing and laughing their hearts away!

After a busy day, the staff had a much calmer evening with our first Fireside of the summer. As we always do on Fridays, we went down to our cozy Fireside corner and looked over the lake. It really is the most beautiful part of Manitou. We were introduced to what Fireside is, our theme of the summer “Don’t Stand By,” and the staff had the special opportunity to hear from camper parent Al Schwartz and his views on what he feels is important for staff to hear from a parents perspective !

My friends Tanisha, Emma, and Daniel also talked about how camp has affected them and why they come back to camp every summer. It was great to hear all of their thoughts and stories, and to hear how Manitou keeps on impacting people through the years. We ended Fireside with our annual Bead Ceremony, where the staff each receive their very own bead necklace representing the number of years they’ve been at camp. It’s an awesome and colourful memento for all!

We ended the day with the first staff rec of the summer: Family Feud! Our staff made their very own little Manitou families and competed in a special camp edition of the game show. It was lots of fun and a fantastic way to end a perfect day.

Well, off to First Aid Training with Eric “Shendy” Shendelman!

Yours Moosily,

Manny the Moose

Precamp 2019!

WOW! Summer 2019 has officially started and I can already tell it’s going to be our BEST SUMMER EVER! It feels great to be back, and I know our staff would agree. The sun is shining bright and the lake is warming up to a toasty 24 degrees! We’ve had just a few days of Pre-Precamp, and already our staff, new and old, are fitting right in and getting into that Manitou spirit.

Our Unit Head team – with over 100 years of Manitou experience combined! – arrived Wednesday and they were off to the races! They’ve been brushing up on rules and safety, doing team building activities together, and planning all sorts of special Evening Programs for their units. I’ve heard some of their ideas, and I can’t wait to see them in action! Stay tuned for some special bonuses from our Unit Heads coming very soon!

And just when I thought things couldn’t get more exciting, on Thursday the Head Staff busses rolled into camp, and we welcomed the Activity Heads, Specialists, and Admin staff! It was great to have the camp feel full again, and to see old faces returning and new ones getting ready for the summer. After a round of silly games with my friend Teghan—our Assistant Activity Director—it was nice to settle down with a campfire and some marshmallow roasting. I learned that S’mores are not a delicacy in the U.K. or Australia, but they like them as much as we do!

Friday was another whirlwind of a day, filled with safety sessions, swim tests, competitive Bingo, and a hilarious new sport invented by our very own Activity Director, Benji Boudreau. Things are still chugging along here, and this afternoon we welcome the rest of our staff team when our Counsellors arrive! I’m excited for it to feel like one big staff family again and for the final piece of our puzzle – you: the campers!

I gotta go and help my friend Jen White make the camp spick and span for when everyone gets here! See you all soon!

Yours Moosily,

Manny the Moose

Partnering with Parents: Balance and Happiness for Children

Dear Manitou Parents of 2019:

When we read about kids and teens today, common themes emerge everywhere we turn: anxiety, mental health, lack of resilience, overprotective parenting, helicopter parenting, snowplow parenting, perfectionism, lack of exposure to nature … the list goes on and it can feel overwhelming.

Despite this sobering reflection of today’s youth, there is a comforting aspect. By being mindful of a few simple ideas, it’s easier than you think to create a sense of balance with your children so they grow into confident and well-adjusted young people.

HAPPY: The Magic Word!

Who doesn’t want to have happy kids? The problem lies in thinking our kids have to be happy all the time. But is that real life? As adults, we understand that there are good times and there are challenging times; it’s important that we trust our kids to understand that too. They have to endure failure to learn success. They have to feel uncomfortable and push themselves beyond their limits to become healthy adults. Kids stand a much better chance of achieving true happiness once they experience the flip side and make it through.

Perhaps an analogy is easier to understand. Let’s take the frustration of learning to ride a bike: you struggle to find balance, falling off time after time, getting scraped up. It feels like you’ll never get it. Yet once you do, you can feel how pushing yourself through hardship has resulted in deeper relationships as you bike with friends, take on new independence and seek out new adventures.

Similarly, going to camp might, at least for the first little while, bring occasional unhappy times. Being homesick, figuring out how to get along with others, gaining skills of resilience, team building, cooperation, and proper communication are just some examples that push kids out of their comfort zones. But we all know camp changes lives in the long term. Even those kids who found it especially challenging at times look back and say camp allowed them to learn the skills to be happy, resulting in the deep, long-lasting friendships and life skills that made all the difference.

Another dilemma we all face as caring parents is that we want to make sure that our children have the best, are exposed to the best and have every advantage. Often, we don’t understand how disabling that can be. “The point is to prepare the kid for the road, instead of preparing the road for the kid” as the saying goes.

It’s undeniable that we live in very complex times. We don’t envy parents today a bit! Here’s the good news, though: if we turn down the dial on everything even a quarter turn, our kids will end up happier and more well-adjusted as they mature.


Let’s start with cell phones and social media. It’s clear that kids rely on their devices and social media platforms to the point of addiction; this lack of personal interaction and constant posting contributes to heightened levels of anxiety and depression. We need to explain to our children that social media posts are online fantasies and that real friendships still happen with direct face-to-face communication. Perhaps it’s a good idea to have some off-limit areas for cellphones at home: bedrooms and the dinner table might be good places to start.


Don’t feel compelled to give so much opportunity to your child, as crazy as that sounds. “I have to give my child every possible competitive edge,” we often hear parents say. By doing so, you are limiting their creativity, putting unnecessary pressure on them, and defining their happiness by only one aspect of what makes people truly happy.


Let children fail and take healthy risks. Young people are drowning in a rising tide of perfectionism and this in turn creates anxiety. Controlling parents, in a study of over 25,000 participants, was one of the key causes of mental health disorders, including depression, eating disorders and suicide. There is no such thing as perfection, of course, and as soon as our children know we love them for their imperfections, the better off they will be. Teaching children to learn from their mistakes, while emphasizing hard work and discipline, is far more effective than preventing children from making those mistakes.

Give your kids the coping skills they need to become resilient, strong young people. Don’t snow plow the obstacles out of the way; challenges are a part of life and must be approached with the confidence to meet them head on. Reassure your kids that it’s okay to feel uncomfortable sometimes; adaptive anxiety is healthy and necessary.

Finally, when was the last time your kids played hockey on the street, went for a hike or played in a mud puddle? A recent study of one million people from Denmark proved that walking outside, hearing the rustle of the trees, and feeling the wind in our face or the rain on our backs increases happiness. Simply spending time in nature positively affects children’s mental health outcomes.

It’s hard not to compare ourselves to our peers, friends and fellow parents, and so of course we feel the need to give our child what someone else’s child may receive. But maybe, just maybe, the key to parenting is not working so hard to give all those opportunities, and instead give the time to our kids to just smell the roses.

We so look forward to welcoming your children to Manitou 2019, we are ready for one more ‘Best Summer Ever’!

Mark and Jeff