Farewell Summer 2021!

OH MY! Time sure does fly when you’re having fun! I can’t believe the end of summer 2021 is upon us already, but thankfully we’ve all made some lifelong friends and memories.

Last night, we got to celebrate the last night of camp as a whole. First, we had our activity awards, where each Activity Head gives out two awards to campers who have improved at their activity throughout Second Session. After our awards, we watched the slideshow, and everyone had an amzing time reliving their favourite moments of Second Session. We then finished off our night in the theatre by giving out some 15-year gifts to this year’s recipients, CIT Director Halle Purther and Assistant Director Melissa Bruce, and a 20-year gift to Administrative Director Jen White. There were amazing speeches about all of our recipients and I know they felt the Manitou family love.

To finish off the night, we all headed out to flagpole where we heard Camp Is speeches from campers from each unit, where they told us what camp means to them and how it has changed their lives. Then, the Jordana Lokash Award for Spirit and Sportsmanship was presented to two camper recipients. This award is in memory of a former camper and staff who loved camp with all her heart, and unfortunately passed away at a young age. This year, our two award recipients were CIT Dylan Nathanson and Senior Boy Damian Mehilli. Congrats to them both….I know everyone was so happy for them!

Overall, it was an amazing last night, and a perfect way to end a perfect summer.

Well, I’m off to say my goodbyes to everyone, but I know before you know it, we’ll be back for summer 2022. That’s all for now.

Yours Moosily,

Manny the Moose

A Final Few Words…

As we close off the summer, we wanted to thank you for your faith in us throughout the last 18 months. Many of the thoughts articulated below were passed on to our staff at the final banquet and we felt it would be nice for you to read them. We want you to understand how much we appreciate your support, and the staff’s support, this summer. It’s a bit of a lengthy speech but we hope it gives you a sense of our pride for our staff team. 

Read on to hear our thoughts and just know that it is you that has allowed us to make our dreams come true. 

Speech to staff:

“To say it was the best summer ever almost sounds trite after all we have been through this year.  It was the best summer ever, of course, but it was so much deeper than that. The layers of challenges and emotions and corresponding rewards from this summer are just so intricate, so significant, and almost too emotional to even talk about.

You see, we as Directors came into camp like you did; fresh from experiencing 16 months of hell. Well hell, for some may be far too strong a word, but it was a year of reckoning, of hardship and of lost opportunity for many. 

March 18, 2020: we thought this Covid thing would pass in a few months, but we were so stressed figuring out if camp would open or not. We spent endless hours in April and May, confused as we absorbed conflicting and new information every day. Like all of us, we were scared but optimistic for the summer and then as things got worse, we decided to do the last thing we had ever originally contemplated; we closed camp before the government decided to because we felt that we just didn’t have the knowledge, the PPE, or the testing equipment to ensure that we could, in good conscience, operate safely. 

Knowing that we would not operate was scary for us from many perspectives. Emotionally, the setback for the kids, financially and so on – but we closed last summer on the automatic assumption camp would be running in 2021. As hard as it was, we knew that of course camp would run like any other ordinary summer next year. I mean, how could it even be a question of having camp closed a second summer?

Boy, were we wrong.  

Well, then the second and third waves came and the entire director team, like all of you, had to revert to an isolated life of Zoom communication.  Little did we know how much we were all falling mentally this year. Not only dealing with the lack of socialization and stress but also with the fact that the government was now saying that camp may not happen or that it would happen with such severe constraints it would not be camp.  How could this even be? We gave up a summer so we could safely open the summer after and now we were being told that may not be possible.  So once again we had to prepare as if we were open and take a huge gamble  once again. It was April, we had to have our staff in place, our kitchen staff, order our supplies, pay for our tents, find our additional nursing staff. What if we did all of this and camp didn’t open?  We were upset, depressed and anxious. But all of you were in the same boat–and you, the staff, and our camper families supported us at every turn and gave us words of encouragement and that just made it so much easier for us to say “we got this.” While some staff dropped off, you stuck with us and believed in us and believed in our Manitou community. Ultimately, by having faith in us and in each other, we changed lives and gave every camper and staff a summer they not only deserved, but that they literally needed.  It was no longer a privilege, but an actual necessity for these kids.  

Working on the logistics of every aspect of camp and the protocols that would work in practice was literally insane. We spent thousands of hours with American camps and with our competitors, working together to figure it all out. 

At the same time, we had to think about scenarios like: what if we ran camp and covid hit us here?  How would we deal with having to send people home and how would our camp work in terms of creating isolation cabins? The permutations and combinations of so many scenarios for the summer were mind boggling.

To the entire director team, if only every staff and parent could understand the hours you put in, the dedication and commitment to get us here – I don’t know in any other business or any team that would work harder or care so much. But that’s why camp is not like any other business- it’s a way of life. 

To the entire team – unit heads, activity heads and other head staff- you showed a maturity, a patience, and a great attitude always and we thank you for trusting us even when it was a bit crazy here at the start of the summer to get things right. 

To all the counsellors in the trenches–seeing you with your kids, hugging them, loving them, dancing with them, cheering with them, caring for them, talking to then, listening to them – you did it!  It was not just the best summer ever- it was the most important summer ever in their lives. 

We could talk for hours how much planning went into this summer, from getting our own testing machines from Chicago, to getting salvia testing or creating the oasis, creating isolation cabins, outdoor dining, etc. But there was just one thing our planning could not have prepared us for and that is underestimating the negative affect of the covid lockdowns on all of you, all of us, and on the older campers. 

Of course, we had sessions from social workers in pre-camp and we thought we were prepared, but to be honest the impacts of the Covid lockdowns had on our campers and staff was far more extensive than anybody knew or understood.  

Asking you to come here after being locked up with lack of regular routines, commitments, and social supports for 16 months, and then re-join our Manitou community where socialization would be the essence of the camp experience, with routines, schedules, and policies, and without technology was a far bigger ask than we realized. 

We started off the summer saying, “you are the heroes” and every one of you here has done something that no one in your generation will hopefully ever have to go through again, to re-engage your brains to live life to the fullest for both others and for yourself. You had all lost so much of your life this past year and then suddenly you were asked to be selfless and just think of others for two months and be normal again.  Camp became a crash course on reminding us of what life is truly about. 

As we said in our blog – we all came to our little piece of heaven, but heaven can be a strange place when you have just been through hell.

Those first ten days of camp were so hard– we all expected camp to make up for our 16 months of hardship, we put so much pressure on ourselves that camp had to be perfect. But camp is never perfect. Camp is like life- it’s a seven-week journey – with ups and downs, with growth, with wonderful memories and new friendships and thanks to all of you, eventually camp actually felt normal again. It was a process – a journey that had us all end up together in this very special place. 

Many of us had to deal with mental illness challenges as a result of covid and after two or three weeks of camp we all adjusted together – we healed together – and the key word in this is  “together.”

We slowly expanded cohorts and by the end of the summer we were all in the dining hall as one group again – how we quickly forgot all about running up and down steps to get food. How we longed for a music lunch with all of us in one place – the simple pleasures of life, and in the end with a little bit of luck nobody was happier when as DJ Marky, I got those tunes going for all of us in the dining hall last week. 

We saw Freshkids with more homesickness in week one than ever, yet at the end of the summer we had five times the number of Freshkids stay all summer long. Does that not say it all? 

We were able to work within a new construct, making it easy for kids who needed therapy to get help online at camp, while still immersing themselves in the camp experience. 

And we saw the frustration of this year – the resentment that we had – that negativity, turn into spirit, into sportsmanship, into giving back and into making kids feel loved, fulfilled and supported for simply being themselves.  We saw one of the most spirited and staff supported world games of all time!  

So, as you light your candle this year (candles are handed out to all staff with lights off), light it for everyone around you who had the courage to come to camp in the first place and risk the unknown. If you had not signed your contract taking that risk, we honestly would not have made this happen. Many camps did not have as many staff willing to return as we did, as they did not know what type of summer it would be for them. They could not trust the community that nurtured them. But you are the heroes of our summer because you did. 

As you light that candle remember, how you feel now- you did it! Watching you these last few weeks we know you had a blast this summer- and you likely learned more about yourself this summer than any summer before you. 

As you light the candle think about the fact you beat the odds, you took the gamble – and it paid off. 

Together we learned this summer that we could literally change hundreds of children’s lives for the better and have a bigger impact on them than likely ever before in their lifetime. Think about that and then congratulate yourself.  You learned to give of yourself and reaped the reward.  

Think about that–your gift from Manitou that you so deserve for your incredible effort, loyalty and passion is that you will always remember that you made a decision in the winter months, to take a chance, to enter the unknown, and you did it because you trusted the community either because of your past summers here or because of your gut of what you Manitou stood for.  

May you continue to confront life’s challenges with people you care for and trust- within positive cultures that bring the best out of you and may you continue to take risks to enrich your life.

I can tell you I have never been more exhausted in my life- but I have never been prouder, more fulfilled and, as a result, happier as I stand here today. 

We were hoping to unveil an incredibly beautiful plaque today that we have had professionally made – that will honour all your contributions to manitou this summer – something that campers and staff can look to for years and decade ahead- to say thank you to our heroes of this summer. It is still being worked on and will be ready in six weeks. 

This plaque will be at Fireside and list every staff who made summer 2021 so special.  It will read as follows:

‘Our heroes don’t wear capes; they wear masks and live in cabins for eight weeks. Our heroes don’t fight villains, they fight for campers to live their best life at camp. Thank you to our staff- the heroes of Manitou 2021.'”

World Games Day 3 Recap

It’s another gorgeous Manitou day, and I have a feeling it’s going to be a fantastic packout day! But before I get to that, let me tell you about the end of World Games!

Yesterday morning was the Manitou Relay, a relay where every single camper and staff from both teams participate and try to get a big win for their team. Each relay event is a wacky take on a game or sport, and I love running around camp with the kids and seeing how much fun they’re having. It always ends in an intense rope burn competition, with plenty of cheering from both sides, and this year Italy took the win! After all the cheering of the relay, we all headed into Monk Lunch, a meal where everyone has to be completely silent. If a team is caught talking they may risk the points, so everyone was at their quietest! Even in silence, our teams got creative, and we saw Team Egypt presenting the Ten Plagues, and Team Italy doing a reenactment of Pompeii.

After Monk lunch, the teams competed in the Eliminator, a sock war game done by Units– one more epic battle and final push towards victory! And then finally, we got to see the Closing Ceremonies from each team, where the story lines we had been following concluded, and we got to hear a World Games favourite: the closing songs. Both songs were fantastic this year and I know we’ll be singing them for years to come. It was a very tight finish, but in the end Team Egypt were victorious and became our 2021 World Games champions!

Off to pack-out and clean my cabin now. I’ll tell you all about our final camp day tomorrow!

Yours Moosily,

Manny the Moose

World Games Day 2 Recap

It’s a beautiful sunny day here at Manitou…perfect weather for Day 3 of World Games 2021! But before we move onto our events for today, I’ll give you a quick recap of yesterday!

We had cheering all day long, and I loved seeing all of our campers and staff getting into the spirit and culture of their countries.

In the morning we had our World Games Marathon, where all of the campers and staff from each team go on a run (or Fun Walk!) and gain points for their teams! It was a close battle–and there were some very fast runners–but Egypt took home the Marathon win for their team! And as if the morning wasn’t exciting enough, we then headed into one of my favourite lunches of the summer: Spirit Lunch! Both teams showed off their best cheers, their spirit, and their wildest ideas! Sometimes campers paint themselves in their team colours to show their commitment to their team! It was a very exciting lunch, and I couldn’t believe how creative our campers and staff are every year!

In the afternoon, there were some more activity blocks, where campers competed in various activities to take the points for their team, and then we headed into our second team dinner, hosted by Team Egypt. We walked through the Sphinx, into a tomb of mummies, and found ourselves in the deserts of Egypt. It was amazing to feel like we had been transported to another country, even though we were still in the Dining Hall. To end the day, we had Cabaret, an evening of performances where each team will show us their prepared dances, original songs, paintings, videos, and past World Games trivia skills! It’s a great way for teams to get pumped up, and I love seeing the creativity and imagination of both teams.

It’s a very close World Games right now, and there’s still lots of events left before we find out the winner!

I’m off to watch the relay and cheer our campers on! Until next time…

Yours Moosily,

Manny the Moose

World Games Day 1 Recap

Yes, it’s finally here! The time of camp everyone has been waiting for: World Games! Yesterday we started World Games 2021, and you could feel the excitement and energy in the air!

The first day is already a packed one, and I will give you a little taste of what each team experienced! To start off the day, our two teams worked the whole morning on their Opening Ceremonies, a way to introduce to the judges and other team what their culture is and different parts of their country. I have seen some incredible Opening Ceremonies in the past, and these Openings blew me away!

After that, our entire camp participated in a Track and Field event, where every Unit gets the chance to compete in events like Long Jump, Relay Race, Sprint, and even Shot put! It’s a great way to see our athletes in action and to cheer on the teams! And after our Track and Field event, our teams went to their first Activity Block, a period of time where campers get to sign up for different activities, compete against the team, and have a blast, as well! There are things like Canoe Races, Painting Challenges, and even Trivia!

We were then off to one of the most highly anticipated events of World Games: the team dinners. Last night we headed off to Italy and it was breathtaking. There were gondola rides through Venice, the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, and beautiful rolling Italian landscapes. And finally, to end off the day, we had our Fashion Show and Dance Off. Our Fashion Show is where campers have been making outfits throughout the day based on their teams, made out of their team t-shirts, and they strut down the catwalk to impress the judges. We ended on a high note with our Dance Off, where our Captains, Top Ten, and Campers Captains led their teams in wacky and crazy dances. Whoever the judges think got their team the most involved and dancing the hardest will win!

It’s a fun ending to a great day, and I can’t wait for you all to hear about Day 2!

Time to go to my activity block now! Until next time…

Yours Moosily,

Manny the Moose

Little Shop of Horrors, Legally Blonde, and World Games!

YAHOO! It’s been another exciting last few days at Manitou and there’s so much to share with you all!

We finished off Community Week and it was an incredible success! Our campers and staff raised thousands of dollars which will support the Parry Sound Friendship Centre and a documentary film covering residential school survivors. They created and participated in many different unique activities to raise funds, and I think everyone is really proud of the work they accomplished.

On Saturday, we had our second last theatre show of the summer, which was Little Shop of Horrors. Our Junior unit put on an incredible show complete with singing, dancing, and puppetry! The amazing cast and crew put on a fantastic show, and I know we will be talking about it for years to come.

And yesterday was the last activity day of the summer! I saw campers finishing up their projects at the different arts activities and polishing off their skills at different sports. I know some campers tried to get up in Waterski one last time, and some were putting the final coat of paint on those Pottery projects.

Just last night we had our final Theatre show of the summer, which was Legally Blonde performed by the Seniors and CITs. It was an amazing show, and the big cast put on an incredible production of the show. I’m always impressed by the talent we have at this camp, and how well our campers pull of these shows!

And then after the play was the highlight of the summer for most of our campers and staff…the start of WORLD GAMES 2021! We went to the opening of the games and learned that this year the teams were Egypt, led by Adventure Park Head Jonah Opler and Creative Arts Head Amber Hartley, and team Italy, led by Theatre Head Robbie Dryer and OCS Head Lexi Gottlieb. Our captains and steering committees did amazing dances and speeches to present their teams to the campers, and everyone was already cheering and showing their spirit for their teams.

It’s an exciting time for all of us here at camp, and I know everyone is excited for the next three days of World Games!

Yours Moosily,

Manny the Moose

Walk of Hope

WOW! Yesterday was jam-packed at Manitou and I can’t wait to tell you all about it!

During the day, there was a lot of excitement at activities. Over at Soccer, there was a World Cup Tournament where all age groups were able to participate, and I know it was thrilling, even down to the final seconds! At Adventure Park, they had their annual Dale Evan competition, where teams compete in time-based teamwork challenges, and whoever has the best time and spirit win the whole thing. And last but not least, we had another long-standing Manitou tradition: Art in the Park. All of the Art Hill activities (Culinary Arts, Crafts, Martial Arts, Pottery, Woodworking, Photography, and Creative Arts) participated in an outdoor arts festival where they had booths set up outside, and campers and staff could go to each booth. There was face painting, an art gallery, paint twister, and so much more amazing stuff. And the best part is it all went to Community Week and the charities we’re supporting!

After an exciting day, it was good to calm down at night, and there’s no better way to do that than with the Walk of Hope. For those new readers, and those who need a refresher, the Walk of Hope is an annual night that falls during Community Week, where we walk together and reflect. This year some First Nations values were inserted into our walk, so when we went we could reflect on the history of First Nations people in Canada and think about how we can help and do better. Our Main Field was set up beautifully, with a lit path made of paper bags each camper and staff decorated, and a big lit up letters spelling out Hope. We even had performances throughout the night from our talented campers and staff. It was an inspiring Manitou night, and I hope everyone was able to reflect and take some valuable lessons from it.

I’ll fill everyone in more soon, but right now I’m going up to Pottery, where Laurie, the Activity Head, is going to help me paint my sculptures!

Yours Moosily,

Manny the Moose

Midnight Madness!

YAHOO! We had such an exciting evening at camp last night, I can’t wait to tell you all about it!

All of our campers had Cabin Activities, which is where their counsellors plan fun activities for them, and then they all went off to bed early (or for an ETB as we call them here)! Except it wasn’t an ETB at all!

Soon after, they were brought out of their cabins to see our 2021 CITs perform a skit as an intro to their big program they plan called Midnight Madness. In this skit we learned that the CITs had all been shrunk in “Manny I Shrunk the Kids” and now all of us were tiny! When we went to the event, we saw murals and decorations of normal sized objects that had grown to massive sizes! It seemed as if we really had shrunk!

There was so much to do inside too, with tons of different games and activities set up and run by the CITs, and lots of foods that are camp favourites like mozzarella sticks and chicken nuggets. I saw all the campers, and even staff, having a blast at the booths and smiling and laughing the whole time. It was a bit of a late night for everyone, but it was one that will give us lifelong memories.

We are still in the midst of our Community Week at camp, and lots of activities have been raising money for our chosen charities this year. Plus tonight is our annual Walk of Hope, a highlight of Community Week here at Manitou.

I’ll tell you all about it tomorrow, but for now I’m off to watch the 2021 Manitou Martial Arts Tournament!

Yours Moosily,

Manny the Moose

Friday Night Fireside, Community Week, and More!

camp manitou fireside

WOHA! It’s been another jam-packed few days of fun at camp and I can’t wait until you read about everything going on here!

At the activities, we’ve had lots of special days and tournaments going on; there was a three-on-three tournament at Volleyball, OCS (Other Camp Sports) had a football tournament, and Tennis has been holding the Manitou Open. It’s amazing to see all of the athletes in our camp get their opportunity to show off their skills and maybe have the honour of winning! Over at the arts activities, Creative Arts has been holding Earth Day where they have been creating projects based on nature and how we can help our planet. And Pottery and Crafts are combining forces to have a Polymer Clay Day, where they’re going to use an air-dry clay to create some amazing sculptures! And of course, our incredible Adventure Park program has been having their Escape Room, where cabins have to work together and figure out how they can “escape.”

We’re having so much fun all around camp, but sometimes it’s great to just sit and reflect on the incredible place we’re in. Which is why it was perfect we had Friday Night Fireside last night, and it was a very special one too. First, we kicked off our annual Community Week, which is where everyone around camp does a gesture or task to raise money for a chosen charity. This year, Manitou is donating to First Nations charities, including the Parry Sound Friendship Centre, a community centre and resource for Aboriginal people, and also to a film documenting residential school survivors. Both charities are incredibly important and relevant, and I know our campers and staff will work hard this Community Week to raise some money. After we kicked off Community Week, we heard from our Senior Unit. Campers spoke again on our theme “Together We Can Go Far,” and then they sang a song together called “You Will Be Found,” which encapsulated our theme and the way a lot of people are feeling. After we heard from our fantastic Senior campers, we then heard from a staff member who talked about mental health. She explained a little about mental health, her own journey with it, and how we can be more accepting of people with mental health problems at camp and beyond. Our campers and staff were incredibly receptive, and we know how important this topic is post-pandemic. It was a very special Fireside overall, and I can’t wait to see all the Community Week challenges that everyone comes up with.

Well, I’m off to Basketball where my friend Jason is going to help me shoot free throws.

Yours Moosily,

Manny the Moose

A Spoooooky Halloween

OH ME OH MY! It’s been a busy few days…but they’ve been some of the most memorable too!

We’ve been having a great time in the sunny weather at camp, and to take advantage of that, on Monday we had Beach Day down at Swim. Everyone had Hawaiian leis and we had fruit smoothies and grilled cheese. And we got to listen to some great music while we all swam! I can’t think of a better way to spend the day at the beach!

Then just yesterday, camp was a little bit spookier as we had our annual Manitou Halloween. All day activities were making decorations, and campers and staff were working on their costumes in preparation for the big night. Once it was finally time, I couldn’t believe some of the creative costumes I saw! There were people dressed as traffic lights, some were unicorns, and I even saw a bunch of Mario Kart characters running around! Everyone was having an amazing time trick or treating and showing off their incredible outfits in the costume contest. But that wasn’t all! There was also a spooky Haunted House, a hay ride that drove all around camp, and a corn and hot dog roast! And as always, we ended the night with a Halloween dance, where we all danced together outside in our awesome costumes. Our campers get more creative every year and I can’t wait to see what they come up with next!

And for a little extra Manitou content, please follow our new Culinary Arts Instagram @madeatmanitou. There will be recipes, pictures of the food we make there, and more!

Well I’m off to Volleyball where the Activity Head, Dani, is running an awesome three-on-three tournament!

Yours Moosily,

Manny the Moose