I just finished writing about my own summer camp experience and how important it is to give your kids the chance to grow and thrive—away from home. This post will serve as part-two of the summer camp story. I want to share with you an incredible organization I’ve come across that grants children in Toronto’s poorest neighbourhoods the opportunity to experience the joys and thrills of overnight camp.
It’s called Moorelands Community Services, and it has been working to improve the lives of kids for 100 years. “Our purpose is to give low-income urban children a fighting chance to succeed,” says Patricia Jacobs, the organization’s executive director.
And what’s really amazing about Moorelands is they not only organize and run programs within the city (leadership workshops, after school programs, and day camps) they also own and operate a 40-acre wilderness camp near Dorset, Ontario where kids have the chance to spend eight days immersed in all the activities, adventures, and experiences that go along with overnight camp.
“We’ve seen first-hand the impact summer camp has on children’s lives,” says Patricia. “And it is tremendous—particularly for the children we serve who have very limited exposure to the experiences and opportunities that help kids succeed.” In just eight days, she says, kids who attend Moorelands Wilderness Camp experience increased self-esteem and develop invaluable leadership skills. Both of which last long after the camp session is over.
“These days we have these lovely parents who adore their children and want to protect them and hover over them like helicopters,” Patricia says. “Camp gives the kids of these parents a chance to break free, to take safe risks, and to experience independence on so many levels.”
And for many of Mooreland’s campers, the opportunity also exists to reinvent themselves—to be whoever they truly want to be. “At school they may be slower to pick up on things, or have learning disabilities, or they may be chubby—whatever the stigma is. But, at camp they get to be a different person, to succeed at things like the high ropes course they’d never get a chance to try in the city, and to feel really good about themselves as a result.”
Activities include canoeing, kayaking, arts and crafts, vocal music, drama, high ropes, low ropes, and many other traditional camp programs.
With space for 100 kids per session, and offering six sessions per summer, Moorelands is able to give 600 kids the chance to experience camp every summer. And while each camper’s family is required to pay something to send their child to camp, what they pay is based completely on their income. “The actual cost to send one child to camp for a week is $840, but because more than 70 percent of our families earn $24,000 or less annually, we have a sliding scale when it comes to camp fees,” Patricia tells me. For many families, the price paid out of pocket is as little as $25.
“The idea behind having everyone pay something is to change the relationship dynamic from one of ‘charity and supplicant’ to one of ‘service provider and consumer’” Patricia explains. “And, we often hear kids at camp saying: ‘My mom paid a lot of money for me to come here...’” This helps ensure no one takes the experience for granted.
The majority of the funding for Moorelands overnight camp programs comes from donations from businesses and individuals.
Which is where you come in.
I know many of you are already spending a lot to send your own kids to camp this summer. But wouldn’t it make you feel amazing to know you’re not only giving your own kids this invaluable opportunity, but also paying it forward to someone else’s child who would never be able to go to camp otherwise?
A donation of $210 will cover two full days of fun and activities for one child. You can even make a donation in someone’s honour (i.e. for a birthday gift, or retirement gift) or have your kids collect donations for Moorelands at their next birthday party instead of presents.
The happiest part of this story is how good you’ll feel knowing you’re helping a little person gain invaluable life experiences that will surely help them navigate adolescence and beyond.
Plus, doing something good for a kid in need, may help distract you from the fact that you've been left at home yet again, while your kid gets to spend the summer at camp, learning and growing and living it up with her friends!