First Virtual Fireside

In these times, being able to come together as a community is more important than ever. We hope you can join us this Friday Night at 7:00 PM EST, for our 1st Virtual Fireside for a special evening. At Fireside, we take time out of our week to slow down and think about what we are grateful for. In addition to our Fireside, we have planned other exciting ways to connect with each other and contribute to the world around us. We feel lucky to be part of a strong camp community and are looking forward to staying connected with you through these events and initiatives.


Fireside will be hosted on ZOOM, we will send an email early Friday with the MEETING ID. Get excited as we announce our official Fireside theme for 2020! Join The Manitou Team, this year’s summer series speaker Abdi Iftin, last year’s speaker Anthony McLean, and our whole community to share in our Fireside traditions. To end off the evening, we are excited to premiere our Virtual Fireside Song – thank you to our many contributors!


Want to connect with camp from your own home? Starting Saturday, March 28, every day at 4:00 PM EST (Toronto), join us on Camp Manitou’s Instagram LIVE stream with a camp celebrity for a fun activity for you, your friends and your family. CLICK HERE for additional instructions.


It’s time to join the #MANITOUHANDWASHCHALLENGE 🤲🧼 Follow along with Head Counsellor Chris McKibbin and then post your own recording – washing and singing the song using the hashtag! Let’s stay safe and healthy with the fun spirit of Manitou! CLICK HERE for the lyrics if needed. We will repost all challenges we receive!



Supporting Evangel Hall Mission, one of the shelters we work with closely during the year that has had to close their doors temporarily. They have asked for the following help:

·Create Messages of Hope or Draw Pictures

·Mail $10-$20 Grocery Store Gift Cards

These can be mailed to Evangel Hall Mission (ATTN: Cards of Hope, 552 Adelaide St. West, Toronto, ON M5V 3W8) 


Ve’ahavta has listed ways you can help through financial need or physical donations, click HERE for more information. 


A COVID-19 Crisis Support Fund has been set up to assist youth as young as 18 who have “aged out” of care. Donate HERE to help with basic necessities such as food, safe housing, and access to critical mental health supports and other virtual programs they desperately need. 


If you are able to leave your home, drop off letters to grocery store and pharmacy attendants who have been kind enough to work out of their homes.


There is an opportunity to volunteer for health professions students to assist with childcare for health care workers. Here is a link to share:


Checking with your neighbours around your home for anyone who may be living alone and putting a note in their mailbox such as the one that Co-Owner Jeff’s Wilson mother received this week.


Please email us at with any ideas or thoughts on how we can support the world around us! We welcome all suggestions you have. Thank you for taking part!

-Mark, Jeff & the Director Team

Update on Summer 2020

Firstly, and most importantly we hope you are dealing with this new reality in as healthy a way as possible, not just physically, but emotionally.  We are there for you and will continue to do whatever we can for you – our precious Manitou community.  If you or a loved one, a grandparent or anyone is in need, please let us know and we can coordinate efforts to help.  Please stay healthy, as ultimately, that is all that truly matters.  

Many of you have reached out in support and hope that camp is on for the summer. We have had campers and staff begging us to ensure camp is running because if there ever was a time our kids need camp it is this summer! Of course, camp will only open if we are 100% sure it is safe and this is the sole criteria of how the government, with input from camp and health care professionals, will be making this decision. The purpose of this letter is to let you know of some updates in terms of where things are at, as of today.

It goes without saying, we fully endorse the measures taken by our government to bring the safest outcome for all of us.  We are following their direction in our homes and offices and will continue to do so as we navigate these unprecedented and uncertain times. We feel a sense of obligation to responsibly prepare for the summer of 2020 and to communicate with you about those plans and will continue to keep you up to date. We are fortunate to be directly linked to high level government officials, and physicians who are consulting with the government on health protocols pertaining to “summer camp”. In addition, Mark Diamond, co-owner of Manitou, is co-chair of the Ontario Camps Association Task force representing over 450 Ontario camps allowing him to be privy to the best and most up-to-date information available.


As of today, we believe we will be sitting at flagpole and raising our flag this summer. With our hearts, we hope for the best, and with our brains we are planning for some other alternatives, so we may need to be flexible. Flexible in possible changes to the start of the summer, the length of the sessions and the roles we will play at camp this summer.  


The best thing for us right now, if you are able to, is just keep everything as is. The entire Manitou Staffing team lead by Co-Owner Jeff Wilson, and Assistant Directors, Alec Amato and Melissa Bruce are still busy recruiting our final staff for the summer.   We so appreciate your loyalty and commitment to Manitou and reciprocate that feeling. We know the financial impact of this crisis has left some of you in a difficult situation.  As such, we hope and trust that the commitment that we are making leaves you confident about your plans for this summer at Manitou.   If you have any questions or concerns, please get in touch with Alec or Melissa at any time.

Right now, we are concentrating on spending every bit of our energy on planning for the opening of camp.  If you are aware of a former staff member or friend (19+ years) who had previously decided not to return to Manitou, please let them know we are still looking for some select staff.


  1. If you have booked a flight on a credit card check and see if the travel insurance covers a change or cancellation you as it likely does.  Please continue to update us with travel plans by sending all flights to
  2. If you are booking a flight, check that your credit card insurance covers you or obtain travel insurance or speak to the airline as many airlines are now offering full refunds to entice passengers to book. 
  3. We expect many more flights to be available in 2 months from now as well so don’t be concerned if you can’t find a flight right now.
  4. Please keep checking Camp Canada COVID-19 Updates Page for more information and reach out to Jen if you have any questions about your work permit.


We are excited to announce some new online programming that will take place in the coming weeks and will add a little sunshine to your days while we all navigate through this challenging time.  This Friday Night, we will be hosting our 1st virtual Friday Night Fireside.  For all staff, new and returning, we hope you will join us at 8 PM EST.  More information on how to join will be sent out in the next couple days.

In closing, let’s focus on what is most important, and that is the health of all of you and your family and friends. We will do whatever we can to make the lives of our community easier.   Please let us know If you have any ideas in this regard.


Mark, Jeff and the entire Manitou Director team

Partnering with Parents: How to talk to your children about today’s challenges

March 13, 2020

Dear Manitou parents and friends:

By now we hope you’ve had a chance to read our initial e-mail update that was sent out Monday. We continue to be privy to the most current information as the Ontario Camp Association COVID-19 task force includes Manitou’s co-owner Mark Diamond.   

We thought we would take a few moments and share with you some thoughts as we are all going into Spring Break when most likely you will be spending more time than usual with your children.  The medical experts have made it clear that major disruptions to our lives will occur over the next six weeks. We are in a new paradigm in terms of how we function and respond as human beings over the next few months.

We’ve just seen the current disruption in professional sports, and the recently announced school closures. There will be an enormous brief economic disruption. People will need to work from home. Health care will be absolutely overwhelmed. Unofficial or official quarantines will most likely occur.

The best thing you can do right now is be a role model for your children. It’s important to share with them some straight talk about COVID-19, letting them know it’s concerning without scaring them. Right now, the health risk from coronavirus is very low for you and your children. You should help them understand this.

Most experts feel children have little risk, even though they may be carriers.  If your children ask you about COVID-19, be honest but don’t give out  more information than they are actually looking for.   Use this as an opportunity to teach proper hygiene.  Each summer we teach the kids at flagpole how to wash their hands properly; review this with them and emphasize that this is not just for now, but good practice for always.

Our greatest wish is that you use this as an opportunity to teach them a life lesson about not being fearful or reactionary. Let them learn not only health hygiene, but also compassion. Let’s all try our best together as one community to humanize this situation.   Be calm and patient, yet assertive. Teach them about how and why we make personal choices and sacrifices, such as postponing a vacation; this in turn helps others by reducing the chances of spreading illness to the frail and elderly.  

If you are stocking up on groceries as a result of a self-quarantine, take the opportunity to talk to your kids about the challenges faced by people in need who may have nobody to assist them, and turn it into a teachable moment by donating non-perishables to a local food bank.  Maybe the money you save on travel, for example, can be donated to a cause to help a senior’s home.   

We all need distraction now. When we fixate on dangers, anxiety grows, and when we turn our attention elsewhere, it shrinks. That said, it might be hard for some teenagers not to obsess about COVID-19 given that the topic pervades headlines and social media. Try asking your teenager to consider scaling back on how often they check their phones for information updates (“social media distancing”), and to ask them to trust that we’ll share any significant news should it arrive.  Similarly, we might encourage finding distractions, such as doing their homework or watching a favorite show, while shielding themselves from digital intrusions.

A new TV show or book could be the best recipe now for your children!  Take advantage of any family time you have at home as a result of these times.   Good old- fashioned board games, learning a new game as a family, going for a walk, or having a good old fashioned pajama party are your best recipes to normalcy.

Finally, we are sure you are all wondering whether summer camping will be impacted by COVID-19. We know that most kids are already counting down the days until camp, and can’t wait for summer’s arrival!  Rest assured that our number one priority is the health and safety of your kids.  A close second is giving our campers the summer of a lifetime. Know that we are working tirelessly to achieve both of these goals for summer 2020! 

We will continually update you on the situation as it unfolds with respect to camp and wish you a healthy Spring Break.


Mark, Jeff, Jen, Alec and Melissa


March 9, 2020

Dear Manitou families:

We are writing today to update you on the effect that COVID-19 may have on your child(ren) and the entire Manitou community. We wish to be proactive in terms of communication, even though camp is still 110 days away. 

As you are aware, this is a fast-changing, fluid situation that we are actively monitoring.

We are working tirelessly with our network of advisors and experts every step of the way. Let us start off by emphasizing that we are fortunate to have guidance from the directors of two of Toronto’s leading hospitals. We receive daily information and updates from every relevant government organization, and we sit on the board of the OCA task force, formulating policy for all Ontario Camp Association camps. This allows us to be informed by numerous agencies, such as Public Health Ontario, the WHO, and Health Canada and CDC. Of course, we also have our wonderful medical team of doctors and nurses, as well as the American Camp Association and other infectious disease agencies guiding us.

One thing is clear: the position we are in today will change daily. In April of 2003, with SARS at its peak, we were prepared; fortunately, by June the threat had dissipated. 

Three months is a long time in the infectious disease world, and we learned then that anything can happen over this timeframe. The good news is that every passing day brings new knowledge, placing us in an excellent position to ensure camp is safe by the time we raise the flag on Summer 2020.

As it is mere speculation at this point, our policies and procedures relating to Manitou’s operational changes will not be determined until closer to the start of camp. At the same time, we will be ready to implement numerous procedures well in advance, even if those operations are deemed unnecessary. All camps such as Manitou have infectious disease protocols already in place that will be revised and updated with the facts at hand, and will include appropriate policies  with respect to campers and staff coming to camp from abroad, along with screening before and within the camp environment.

It goes without saying that Manitou puts the safety of its community above anything else. Please remember that infectious diseases are nothing new for Camp professionals; between H1N1 (swine flu), SARS, and West Nile, we have learned so much. It is our role as camp owners and directors to obtain the very best advice on these health-related matters and we take it very seriously. 

Finally, the good news to date is that this virus so far has not posed any significant risk to healthy children and young adults. Right now, the people with the greatest risk are the elderly with underlying health conditions. In fact, it appears many children (unless they have a prior medical condition) may be carriers and do not even develop symptoms.

We remain as excited as always for the start of our best summer ever! We’ll keep our Manitou family posted on all developments, and please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions and concerns.

Mark & Jeff