A Fireside Welcome

Two nights ago we had Manitou’s first Friday Night Fireside of 2018, and there’s only one word to describe it: magical.

After the campers enjoyed free swim in the warmest lake we’ve had in years, and everyone finished off their traditional Friday night meal of chicken, veggies and potatoes, the sun was setting and we all headed down to our Fireside spot; a secluded, quiet area with a gorgeous view overlooking Lake Manitou-Wabing. Each Friday night when we all arrive at Fireside, we give a land acknowledgement to remind our campers that the places we enjoy—including Camp Manitou– were once occupied by our precious Indigenous populations.  To start our first Fireside with our campers we felt it was important to invite a member of the Wasauksing First Nations Reserve, Jodi Baker Contin, to speak to our Manitou community. Through her wonderful words, singing, and drumming, campers could more fully understand the vibrant and wonderful culture of our Indigenous friends while acknowledging the land we are all so blessed to enjoy.

Following that was our candle ceremony, a tradition we do every week at Fireside, where a candle is given out to a female and male camper from each unit (including staff), who exemplify the positive values of our Manitou community. Since our campers have been here for just a day, only a staff candle was given out this week, and we were told that it has been renamed the “David Sheffe Candle”, in honour of our dear friend Luigi. Though the staff had a full memorial during pre-camp, the campers were able to hear a bit about Dave as well when the Unit Heads each described a word or phrase that defined Dave’s endless and selfless love and support of everyone. It was also a touching moment to hear David’s nephew speak at Fireside and thank everyone for their support of their family these past couple of months.

As we do on every first official Fireside of the summer, we had our “Camp Is” campers speak and tell us why their first year at Manitou was so special, and give out messages of support especially to our first time campers. I thought they did an amazing job and hope that their words help some of our new campers along the way this summer! I wish you could all hear their speeches, but here are some fantastic quotes to give you a taste:

“Where else do you get to come to breakfast in your pajamas and eat pancakes with thirteen of your closest friends. Camp is a place where you can be yourself, meet kids from different places in the world, and share interests with those you’d least expect to.”

 “Last year I missed home a bit so I talked to my counsellor about it and he told me that there is no reason to be scared or miss home because you have two homes and camp is one of them…Camp is so important to me because I can be off screens and with this wonderful world that we are blessed to live in.”

 “Last year was my first year at Manitou and I was 7 years old.  I realized that camp is so important to me because I learned how to do things, make new friends, and grow up without my parents being there all the time…If you ever need advice here at camp come and talk to me- everyone at camp is so friendly and we’re like one big family.”

 “I love camp because you get to spend time away from your parents which means you don’t have to listen to them which is awesome… if you are ever feeling homesick, your counsellors and friends are here to make you feel better and soon Manitou will be your home away from home.”

 “The staff at Manitou are some of the most welcoming people I have ever met…While I was waiting to board the bus many girls came and started introducing themselves and then I basically knew my whole cabin. But the true friendships developed in the cabin over the summer.”

 “I had been to prior camps before Manitou but my experience was well -meh… but I came to Manitou last year and I was nervous and scared. That all changed as soon as I got on the bus.  I was greeted by at least five people with high fives and how you doings.  I found my spot in the camp and had the best summer of my life”

 “Manitou offers the chance to give back to the community and I love that. From inspiring speakers to the programs that allow us to contribute to the final donation for a charity.  Manitou teaches us the importance of thinking of others even while we are having fun at camp.”

As you can see from those tidbits, we have some bright young campers, who are sure to mature into amazing Manitou staff one day. Camp is my home, too, and I love sharing it with all of these great campers on a special evening like Friday Night Fireside, and all summer long.

With all of our ‘Camp Is’ speeches finished, our beautiful Fireside poem was read and our camp song was sung in unison by all, displaying our theme of the summer:  “caring is community.”

Now off to lunch…a Canada Day celebration! Until next time…

Yours Moosily,

Manny the Moose

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