It’s hard to believe the summer has flown by so fast, and that Manitou 2018 has wrapped up. After World Games finished—congrats to Team Scotland!—we all packed up and got ready to head home. But before we all got on the busses, we had two amazing banquets to send off an amazing summer.
First we had our Staff Banquet, and the final night for staff is as emotional as it is for the campers. After a wonderful staff slideshow, we had five staff speak to the entire group about their camp experience. There were new staff, returning staff, counsellors, and head staff, and the range of stories and lessons were valuable for everyone to hear! Here are some of the beautiful thoughts from that staff banquet from our unique and special staff members!
From a second year staff member:
“Each year at Manitou is special and memorable due to the friendships and memories we make. However, this year is different. Not only did I make memories with my friends, I also made memories with my campers that I know none of us will forget. Prior to meeting my campers, I honestly didn’t realize how much I would come to love them, laugh with them, and how much fun we would have as a cabin. I remember talking to my two best counsellors during pre-camp– Adam Dennis and Gorlick – and I asked them, ‘How are you so great, how did you make every moment so fun?’ They responded with a simple answer, ‘You have to be a smart idiot.’ This means you joke around, but you still show your charismatic tendencies in the right way.
I started the summer with a cabin that was not together, and I wanted these boys to realize that that to make this the best summer ever, they would have to have each other’s backs, and not bring each other down. I kept tossing up a common theme of being united as a cabin, and I got the campers to throw their hand in the middle so I could say a pregame speech and a cheer on 3. I remember after an Evening Program there was a ton of garbage to be picked up but no other cabin was around to clean up and I said, “Alright we are a cabin and here is the plan, we are going to break from this huddle in 20 seconds and pick up all the garbage, and then play basketball.” Picking up garbage, especially of other kids, was the last thing they wanted to do but they did it. It’s moments like these I will remember because in that huddle I looked around the circle and I saw a smile on everyone’s face. I never knew people would be so happy picking up garbage and they were laughing and loving it because it was about doing it together.
The ups the downs have shaped who we are today and gave us the tools on how to be better in the future. I remember in pre-camp being told to give the campers the best summer ever but I was never told it would be so easy if you yourself were also able to have the best summer ever.
Coming back to camp was the best decision I have ever made. Every day, night and moment at Manitou is so special. I know this may sound a bit cheesy, but not coming back last summer truly opened up my eyes and made me grateful to come to a place and be who I am.”
Our final speaker at our Staff Banquet was Sandy Foster, who just a few nights earlier had announced his camp retirement after the final play. After 19 summers at Manitou—ten as a director, and nine as Head of Theatre—it made the final Theatre show and last couple of days bittersweet. But have no fear! Mark down November 4th and come out to see Sandy’s final play in Toronto. The Seniors and C.I.T.s will be reprising Les Miserables, and it’s a great way to thank Sandy for his wonderful contributions to Manitou for almost two decades. Here is a small snippet of what Mark and Jeff said about Sandy after the final play:
“As you know, Sandy puts on amazing plays, but more importantly when you are in a play in the Theatre, the entire group becomes so close and they love putting on the play.It becomes a mini Manitou family like no other, and Sandy is so incredible at creating that positive atmosphere. The support of each other is paramount to every production.
Sandy works so hard but he cares so much. Who else would come to you and say I want to put on our theatre show in town for the parents. To spend that much work to prepare for that in the Fall is simply beyond what any person would do. This has allowed our parents to understand the magic of camp by bringing them the plays to Toronto while allowing us to raise money for our charity of the year.
Sandy has taught his children to be true to themselves and follow their passion, and both Julie and Lanny are just such wonderful people and refreshingly are each true personalities in their own right, adding so much to make the world a better place and being people you want to hang out with, work with and befriend. Seeing the Foster family together here, with Lanny coming up last minute and Dale here on this special night, is a fitting way to say thank you to you all, for allowing Sandy to be here each summer and to give so much to all of us each and every summer.”
Mark and Jeff then spoke, as they always do, at the closing of our Staff Banquet. It’s a great tradition to end off the summer, for the staff to hear from our two fearless leaders, and they always give some final words of wisdom. Here are some of the things they left us with this summer.
“Once again, the gigantic power of human connection in a world that sometimes forgets that real honest relationships have the power to change the world played itself out these past eight weeks here at camp.
One thing that always resonates for me more than ever is the long time campers that I have met as adults on staff who all share a bond and loyalty to their childhood camp friends. And I think this comes out of spending so much time together in a place where they had to figure things out, sometimes things that were hard like homesickness or learning a skill or figuring out relationship building. Adversity creates bonds that are irreplaceable, and being away from the typical supports allows for growth in a way that few things can. We have felt the community and support this summer like I have never felt it before. It’s simply been inspiring.
When all is said and done what the kids will remember most of all and what is truly the magic of Manitou is the people who they meet, the friends they make, the young men and women who touch their lives and hearts, as important role models and leaders that they admire and emulate as they grow up. The lessons they learn are as much about how to be good people as how to climb, sail or play guitar. It’s about how to help a homesick friend, how to serve your community, how to work as a team, about how to be tolerant of others and stand up for what is right.”
“If you would have told me in late May I would be standing here once again at the end of the summer saying it has been another best summer ever, I honestly would not have believed it. Don’t get me wrong, I knew it would be great, but we entered this summer in uncharted territory -both emotionally and logistically.
As I have said all summer we lost a saint, and the truth is we knew we could never replace Dave. But we have learned that if you take a group of 200 of the finest staff and ask them to step up, you can ensure that our Manitou family will remain strong forever. You did just that. It was as if each one of you did your extra ten per cent and worked together so well, allowing us to fill a hole that literally was overflowing with your goodness all summer long.
Camp is the best job in the world not only because we change kids for the better and make them so happy , but maybe more importantly it shows us that in the right environment people are truly good and that love, empathy, compassion and kindness really do flourish in a healthy community.
Chris came up to me many times this summer saying, “This is just the kindest staff. There are no bad apples.” If I had to think of the theme of this summer, it was just that: the staff’s positive energy and kindness. Not just the majority of you, but the entire staff, all summer long.
It was your positivity that allowed us to honor Dave this summer and ensure ever single camper had the best summer possible. This summer has been once again so successful because you all understood what you had to do. There was no complaining about anything this summer, and your attitude was beyond expectation. Your positivity allowed the campers to flourish and be so positive themselves.
You are an example for everyone in this world because you have shown that, as corny as it sounds, love, community, compassion, and gratitude truly does allow you to get through the tough times and still in the end be so grateful for what we have.
A defining moment was when one of our amazing C.I.T.s got up and spoke at Fireside. His words were poetic and they remind us all that Manitou is a place where we realize that our lives are enriched not only by our wonderful typical friends but by people that are truly special. And it’s those friends and relationships that we would not normally befriend that defines a healthy camp experience. This camper reminds us like so many campers and staff here that you can love people even if they are out of the box or out of your box, and you can often learn the most from those people, allowing us to lead more fulfilling lives.
So, every year we light a candle to honour each and every one of you for your dedication. As you light your candle, think of everyone here and how each and every one of you contributed in your own way this summer. Think about what you learned, the friendships you made, and the smiles on the campers faces that you created. And it goes without saying we are lighting our candles for Dave and we are all saying, “Hey buddy, guess what: we did it. We didn’t know if we could. We hope you are as proud of us as we were of you these past 20 years. As we need to know that you are overlooking us and giving us a thumbs up saying, ‘Yup you are all gonna be ok without me.’”
All of our Staff then lit our candles, and it was a perfect ending to a great summer. But it’s not just our Staff that have the chance to speak at the end of our summer! After hearing from some staff at the staff banquet, we then get to see Mark and Jeff present some honours, and then hear from campers that speak on the last night of camp, just before the flag is lowered. First, we presented 15 year gifts and made wonderful speeches about our head of maintenance Glen Crossman, our doctor and his wife Jeremy and Shelley Friedman, and finally honoured Avery Gales, our longtime camper and current Head of Wakeboard/Waterski. Then directors Jen and Chris surprised Mark and Jeff with a 20 year tribute to the camp and to them. We ended with a Manitou original, “Three Days and Counting,” and there was not a dry eye in the house, as everyone sang together. It’s so nice to know our campers get what really counts and the true meaning of camp.
Now, here are our incredible Camp Is speeches from some amazing campers:
“Hi my name is Rolando from Mexico, and camp to me is all about friendship, tolerance and above all fun. The first day I got here last year I thought this was going to be a normal camp but it was very different from the rest…welcome to the best camp in the world where you make so many friends.”
“Hi it’s Juliet I have had an amazing time at camp, right when I got off the bus it felt like home and since I came here I forgot about my parents and had an amazing time.“
“Hi I’m Stella and this is my fifth year at Manitou. Camp to me is about 1.Fun, 2. Memories, 3. Community. I know I can rely on all my friends in the Manitou family and that leads into 4. Kindness. Everyone I meet at Manitou is soooo kind, and that is what makes Manitou. And finally, 5. Friendship. I can’t explain how important my friends are to me. These five values are at camp. I hope you had the best summer ever.”
“My name is Asher, and the reason I keep coming back to camp is because of all the amazing people. Camp is about having the most amazing cabin mates and counsellors each year, and still having paint on your body from spirit lunch when you get home. I can’t wait to continue growing up here.”
“My name is Sean and I am a first year Junior, and everything I have done since I got off the bus was amazing. From my counsellors to my cabin mates to learning the drums. Coming from another camp last year there is one thing that really sticks out about Manitou, and that is you get to choose your own activities and that allows you to meet people that are older and younger than you from around the world. One memory was when I was in the Health Center and they let me use the radio to call some kids and it got a big thank you from the Unit Heads. It’s comments like these that make Manitou the positive place it is. Even when I had to leave camp for a week I was welcomed back with open arms like I didn’t miss a beat and it’s that friendliness about Manitou that makes this my summer home.”
“My name is Lily, and camp to me is the fantastic memories, the many fun activities, and every year I get to meet new people who make such a positive impact on my summer. I love the positive energy from each staff member and camper, and the spirit of camp and how everyone gets involved and excited about everything. My favorite part was learning to do new things like sterning a canoe, dropping a ski, and much more. I love camp because it helps me try new things, work as a team, and be more sportsmanlike, and be a better person and lets me experience the best summers of my life.”
“My name is Wes and camp for me is joining a cabin of people I don’t know and feeling like I have known them for years. Camp is moving the Tetherdome and not getting into trouble, having the best counselors I could ask for, realizing how fast two months can go by, forming memories and friendships that will last a lifetime. It’s realizing what I was missing all these years.”
“Dear Diary: it’s July 15 2018 and we went on a pontoon boat ride to the outpost and got ice cream, sang songs the entire way at the top of our lungs, and danced our hearts out and had the biggest smiles on our faces out of pure joy. Dear Diary: it’s August 16, 2018 and I am making a speech about what camp is to me. I am wiping the tears out of my eyes after singing ‘Three Days and Counting,’ and I am trying to get my voice back after three days of non-stop cheering. Camp is singing songs during music lunch, camp is staying up laughing with your cabin, camp is inside jokes only four friends would understand. Camp is making the most out of every second, minute, and hour. And camp is family and camp is my home and camp is our home.”
“My name is Carter and I came for the first time last summer from California and now have had the privilege of being a C.I.T. Getting off the bus to a tunnel of staff, I knew Manitou was special and this summer made me realize camp is about staying up late with your cabin, playing roller hockey late at night, chilling and talking to friends for hours. Camp is the four day canoe trip, the bonding trip between all the C.I.T.s, planning Midnight Madness, painting murals ‘til 2am and rehearsing the break to perfection. C.I.T. summer is having the added responsibility of being on placement and having a cabin which has taught me how to be a great counsellor. Camp is dislocating your should during hockey intercamp. But what makes Manitou so special is the people. We are all brothers and sisters here, and I cannot express the love I have for everyone. This has been the best experience of my life. Camp is a community of the closest people in my life that live together for two months but cherish each other for rest of their lives. Thank you camp Manitou.”
As you can see, it’s been another incredible, inspiring, emotional, and fun summer here at Manitou. A huge thank you to all of the campers and staff for making it another Best Summer Ever, and I know I’m not the only one counting down the days until Summer 2019!
Until next time…
Manny the Moose