TGIF: why we’re still thinking about Friday Night Fireside

It’s another sunny and breezy day at Camp Manitou. For all you proud second month parents who are just starting to read our blog, welcome! We’re thrilled to have your kids at camp this session, and we’ll be keeping you updated with bi-weekly blog posts for the next few weeks.

So, we have something to confess: we can’t stop thinking about last night’s Friday Night Fireside. For those of you new to Manitou, FNF is a weekly ceremony that honours campers, staff and members of the Manitou community elsewhere in the world who exemplify the values we stand for, such as embracing difference, giving back and being true to oneself.

And in addition to giving out camper and staff candles, we heard a number of campers speak about what “Camp Is.”

While it’s always a joy to hear the speeches campers give at Fireside, last night’s young speakers stood out especially as a creative, charismatic group with unique zest for life. Each speaker talked about camp with panache and originality, and many of their speeches received standing ovations.

Us older folks have a penchant for simplicity, so it’s these little moments in camp that remind us why we keep coming back year after year. Here are some of the highlights.

“I’ve made loads of projects in woodworking and scored many goals in hockey,” said Ryan, a boy from the freshkid unit. “But that’s not why I keep coming back. The reason is… the staff are awesome and always funny. The food is great, and most important, I get to shake it with my best friends.”

“Manitou is a lively, spirited, welcoming place that everyone grows to love,” affirmed Maddy, a 12-year-old camper in the Junior unit. “I’ve probably not been here for as long as you, but the time that I have been here, I’ve felt like it was my home away from home.”

“For those of you who are new, I want to say that I was also nervous,” shared Lucy, an 8-year-old freshkid. “But here I am back again, and I want to tell you: You get free time every day! You can swim, colour, draw or anything else you like to do! You can choose your own activities. You get to go to tuck every other day—I usually get a Mars Bar. The food is really good. And if you ever need a friend, you can always come and talk to me!”

“If you’re ever feeling worried, lonely or like you’re not fitting in for any reason, don’t keep that to yourself,” added AJ, a senior boy. “Speak to one of your counsellors. The staff at Manitou are fantastic, and will ensure you have a great time while you’re here.”

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It goes without saying, but it bears repeating: blessed is the generation in which the old listen to the young. Kids here offer such valuable insight into the specialness of camp, and are often able to distill the thoughts and feelings that we as adults struggle to put to words.

Which doesn’t mean, of course, that the adults here don’t shine. Double blessed is the generation in which the young listen to the old, and the campers got an earful (in the best way) last night as a chorus of head staff serenaded them with Don McLean’s “American Pie.”

Fireside evenings may seem quiet in comparison to the other action-packed days of camp, but it’s in that silence, looking out onto the lake at sunset, that we finally sponge up the experiences of the past week. We commune with one another, and we wake up on Saturdays with a shared secret of what we’ve done.

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