On Friday night we kicked off Community Week 2022, one of the most fulfilling and exciting weeks at Manitou. We began the week by welcoming Emmanuel Jal who started his life as a child soldier in the war-torn region of Southern Sudan. Through music and motivational storytelling, he shared messages of hope and perseverance and inspired us to find the good in everything. Emmanuel is now an artist, actor, and political activist who speaks to groups around the world and, thanks to the efforts of the incredible people at the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center, we were incredibly fortunate to have him come to speak at Manitou.
On Monday night, we held our annual Walk of Hope. Campers and staff walked a path around camp, completing meaningful, thought-provoking activities along the way. Some of these activities include the ‘Fear Fire’ (you write down your fear and burn it in a campfire) and the ‘Wishing Well’ (campers write wishes for the world on stones and throw them in a fountain). Many campers performed poems, speeches, and songs for everyone to listen to as they completed the walk.
Prior to starting the walk, however, campers met in the theatre where they watched a video about why we walk which explained the history of famous marches and walks and what their significance has been in the world. We were also fortunate to welcome Hannah Alper, youth activist, author, public speaker, and environmentalist. Coordinated by our friends at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Hannah spoke to our campers about the power of one. Inspiring them to make a difference using whatever tools and gifts you may have; big or small. Hannah taught us how every action makes an impact and answered many questions about how our campers can start to make a difference around the world.
In camp, we have been seeing the impacts of our speaker’s words and so many campers have been busy raising money for community week! All of the proceeds that campers and staff raise will be donated to the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center. At Archery, campers are raising $5 for every bullseye they hit. Gameshow is hosting a charity casino. Swim is running “swim around the world” with each lap raising money, and woodworking is making appreciation signs for hardworking staff around camp. Campers from Freshkids to CIT’s are hosting handstand competitions for charity, charity trivia contests, bracelet making to give to people to brighten their day and so much more. The ideas and initiatives that have been coming from our campers have just been incredible! So far we have raised over $8,000 and we’re not done yet!
It’s been so wonderful to see kids get together with their cabins and unite for a good cause. They are so proud of themselves when they get up in front of the camp and announce what their cabin will be doing to raise money for the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center and it’s amazing to watch them understand the importance of giving back. Our hope is that this is just the beginning and that this week can help spark a passion for philanthropy that remains throughout their lives.
So far, it’s been a great week and it’s not over yet! Stay tuned for even more community week info to come.
Camp was a little bit spookier as we kicked off Manitou Halloween. Activities made decorations and campers and staff worked on their costumes in preparation for the big night. We had our epic Halloween dance, where we all danced together in our costumes. Our LITs put together an incredible haunted house and after the rain clouds cleared, everyone had the chance to trick-or-treat throughout camp.
We recently had our first Friday Night Fireside of 2nd session and as per Manitou tradition, campers that came to camp last summer for the first time spoke to our new campers about their experience. They offered anecdotes to provide guidance and words of wisdom. It is one thing when a Head Staff member or counsellor gets up in front of the camp to give these messages, but it is another thing for kids to hear from their peers. Receiving the message that its normal to miss home and that it worked out so well for these returning campers is a message that truly helps our entire Manitou family come together in support of our new campers.
Here are some wonderful quotes from our camper speakers.
“I am sure everyone can remember their first day of camp. I was nerve racking , exciting and you did not know what to expect, well these were the feelings that I experienced the first day as well but when I arrived I was greeted by my counsellors who immediately made me feel at home” – Senior camper
“Manitou helped me build my confidence. One of the best things about Manitou is that it lets me be myself and I am the weirdest person I know. What I am trying to say is you don’t have to hide yourself, If you feel homesick don’t be afraid to tell your counsellor” – Freshkid camper
“I was scared to come to Manitou for the first time because I didn’t know anyone and I would miss my family but once I go there I received a very warm welcome and I immediately felt at home. Everyone is so nice and the staff are so helpful and comforting” – Freshkid camper
“I moved from Australia in the middle of covid and with online school I didn’t know very many people in Canada. I turned up at camp last year and booked two weeks and stayed for six. The friendship you make here are like no other and you get to know people on a level that is hard to reach anywhere else than camp. If you feel homesick talk to someone because everyone has felt that at some point” – Sophomore camper
“There were times when I was homesick and I missed my family and I missed having my own bedroom and bathroom but I would not have changed a thing about coming here because of all the amazing people that were like the sisters I never had. I was worried I would be judged for homesickness but know one judged me for anything I did….and I met some amazing people who opened my eyes to the cultures that the world has to offer ….Camp made me feel like I could rule the world, master the stars and tame the ocean and thank you Camp Manitou for showing me how happy I can be just being me.” – Sophomore camper
“When I first arrived at camp I was not sure how I felt about this place however after I went home I was so excited to come back next year , it could be nerve wracking for some people to go away from home for two plus weeks but you will most likely feel at home after the first week or so” – Junior camper
“Last summer I was nervous but excited to come but now as a result of last summer I have some of my best friends coming with e, last summer I was supposed to stay for two weeks but stayed the entire month , World games was awesome.” – Junior camper
“Last year was my first time at Manitou. I was nervous because I didn’t know many people here but everyone was so nice and made me feel welcome, Last summer I was able to make lasting friendships and camp has become my second home” – Senior camper
HIP HIP HOORAY – our 2022 Carnival was one for the ages! Our campers came down to Main Field and had the chance to play and have fun on a whole variety of inflatables, including an obstacle course and a super slide! Additionally, there was a foam party, butter sculpture making, face painting and more. Our campers enjoyed a delicious outdoor dinner complete with carnival classics including snow-cones and cotton candy. The day was complete with an incredible outdoor concert put on by all of our Rock ’n Roll Music campers and staff.
Friday Night Fireside is our favourite evening of the week. Some of our older campers were discussing with the directors that everyone knows at fireside to embrace it, and truly as our poem says be their best self.
This past week, we took thirty of our oldest campers, the Leaders-in-Training (LITs), to Canadian National Institute for the Blind’s Lake Joseph Camp. The LITs went on this incredible day trip to learn how people with different abilities function and enjoy their summers at camp and also how to adapt many of the activities we do at Manitou for people with different needs.
Later in the week, our LITs welcomed campers from the CNIB Lake Joe camp to participate in activities around Manitou. Our LITs used their skills they had learned previously to work with kids who are visually impaired, and it was awesome to see friendships being formed. Their visiting campers got to try their hand at Adventure Park, wheel at Pottery, and they even went to our Archery range! We think our LITs are going to be awesome when they return as CITs next year, and we can’t wait to see their leadership skills in action next summer. Please watch the short video below for our CNIB and fireside recap.
Of course, fireside has the wonderful candle ceremony and campers spoke about our theme, “Grow through what you go through”. Our junior campers had much to say and here are some favourite quotes from the night:
“An example is at the beginning things started off rough in our cabin and then we all though it wouldn’t be better but we started to grow together and now look back on how our cabin has come together and we have become better people”
“When I first came to Canada all the way from Spain I was so but people welcomed me into the awesome community that Manitou is. At Home in Spain Manitou Is a very special thing and is so important to my family.”
“Our theme of the summer is to learn from past experiences. An example of this is I signed up for wakeboard and at first was really nervous but with the help of the staff I was able to get up, and I learned to trust others to help me and grow through what I go through.”
I guess we all could learn from our campers this summer!
On Monday, Manitou was sent to outer space! We had a fun-filled day beginning with a space themed breakfast – a UFO even landed in the dining hall! 👽 Many of our activities got involved and led space day events. Creative Arts had a mock-rocket crash event where campers had to find and assemble pieces of a “crashed” rocket. Martial Arts had a “space invaders” event and Baseball led Jedi training just to name a few! Check out our full video recap below! 🌌
Friday Night Fireside is our most special time of the week and once again, this week was no exception. Every Junior, Senior and CIT participated in the “Tour of Humanity” bus through the Simon Wiesenthal Center and this wonderful presentation opened up their eyes to ensuring we always take a stand and never turn away in the face of injustice and racism.
We hope you enjoy the video below showcasing this incredible #ManitouCares program!
Last year around this time we wrote a blog titled “patience, perseverance and time.”
If you have time to read last year’s blog, we encourage you to do so, as it sets a good benchmark of the feel of camp compared to last year at this time. Although some collective anxiety remains from the last 2 ½ years, the prevailing chatter here is that everyone is so happy to be at camp without restrictions and that it actually feels “normal” again.
So yes…what a difference a year can make! The campers and staff have a much healthier foundation this year in terms of their emotional and social well-being and in turn, it truly feels much more like 2019 again rather than 2021.
We are not Psychologists or Social Workers, but the social and emotional lag of many of our campers is apparent. Children and teens have lost chunks of time in their social development. Junior campers (Grades 6/7) are often reacting and responding to challenges of ordinary life more like a 2nd year Sophomore (Grade 5). Although this takes some getting used to, we still look at this as a positive in the sense that campers are responding and emoting more so than last summer. They are engaged, energized and embracing the whole camp experience similar to years past and this is remarkable to see.
The biggest difference in our success this summer so far has been our staff. Motivating many our staff last summer to work hard, to engage, to keep up with normal routines and even relate to each other – was challenging to say the least. This year we feel like our staff are right back to 2019: caring, empathetic, and motivated as ever! Like the rest of society, many of our camp community still deal with anxiety but we now expect this and have become experts in giving our staff the support they need.
The best news of all is that our biggest challenge this summer has not been the campers or the staff. Our biggest challenge has been trying to respond to more messages than we’ve ever had about your children. We have received all kinds of messages, even some asking us to check on campers when their letters are fantastic! Together we are both overreacting to a letter, a moment of homesickness or a small complaint from your child.
After letter writing day this week, we received requests from over 45 parents asking us to check on their child as soon as possible with valid concerns. Your concern is also our concern, so when you reach out, please know that we do not take these concerns lightly. A director will often check on your child and speak to the unit head and counsellors. Please remember that also your concerns are very valid, parental requests must be weighted with us being out-and-about in camp. What makes camp a special place is that all our staff have the time and energy to be proactive, in person at camp, connecting with your children.
With all ten camp directors checking on our campers, we have great news: Out of the 42 “Please check on my child- they wrote a bad/sad/homesick” letters, 36 of the kids are doing amazingly. Even the handful of campers that we knew were struggling, have been demonstrating such growth and will look back proudly at their experience here at camp. We believe that camp is more necessary for children’s development than it has ever been before. Sometimes, growth and change come with hardship. What we often forget though, is that even with our most homesick campers there are so many wonderful moments of growth, laughter and fun.
Another very important aspect of camp is that children can often become homesick when they write letters. Almost every child who we met who was happy, told us that letter writing can make them miss home. Some said that they want to tell you what’s wrong because it just makes them feel better. Almost half of the homesick campers that wrote said that they were having the summer of their lives, and said camp was a perfect 10/10! Many did not even remember that they wrote a negative letter! Funnily enough, one camper said that if they write something negative, they know their parents will coddle them more when they are home, and give them something special when they return home. (yes that is true!)
Children vent in their letters. Think about your kids coming home from school; they may have had a great day, but if there’s an issue you are the first to hear about it. Writing out your emotions is healthy and often by the time the letter is written, they already feel better. During the pandemic, most parents spent a great deal more time with their children than they had previously. Parents are not used to this separation and can sometimes react emotionally to challenges their children face. We understand that and expect that. It’s hard to remember the base line that was considered the norm pre-pandemic. You have had so much control of their lives and we understand that it’s hard for you to just let go. We support you in how you must be feeling.
Thank you so much for sending your kids to Manitou. We always say that if you were here seeing the happy faces, the laughter, the giggles, and the smiles of all the children, many of you would never feel the need to contact us. Camp is not perfect much like life is not perfect. This is okay. In fact, that’s why you are sending your children to camp in the first place. By sending your children to camp, you are giving them the opportunity to work things out and build valuable resilience. Your lack of intervention is ironically one of the greatest gifts of your child’s camp experience.