Pass down the camp experience, with a little something extra.
By Sarah Fox
For parents looking to pass down their love of summer camp to their children, choosing the right camp isn’t as simple as finding the closest one on the map and calling the neighbours to sort out car pool.
Often, a parent’s instinct to send their kids away for the summer is motivated by a desire to pass on an experience close to your heart. Like you, you want your kids to have memories of warm nights cozied around the campfire with new found friends. You want them to know what it’s like to laugh until it hurts during a talent show routine. And, you want them to experience the thrill of running for their life in a game of capture the flag. And you can find a place that will pass all of this on to your kids. But, aside from all the camp essentials, there are new add-ons to consider.
Nowadays, camps are specialized; there are arts camps, sports camps, music camps, science camps, even culinary camps (thank you Food Network!)—dozens of offerings, tailored to a kid’s specific interests. Your job is to find one that speaks to your child’s interests, while also opening them up to new ones—something that will get them thinking outside of themselves. After all, what parent wouldn’t want their kid to experience a slice of independence that translates into a piggy bank of happy memories and leadership skills to last a lifetime?
This is easier said than done. Plucking one camp out of the hundreds in Ontario can be time consuming and overcomplicated. On top of that, “priceless” memories do come at a cost when it comes to summer camp. Keeping this in mind and a bounty of choices to sift through, research is a parent’s best friend.
Begin your search by asking yourself a few questions. First, what exactly do you want your kids to experience beyond regular camp traditions like singing around the fire? What life lessons do you want them to learn? And lastly, what do you hope to be the central takeaway from their time at camp?
For traditionalists, Take Action Camp (TAC) in Bethany, Ontario, includes all the camp staples and more—a lot more. But don’t just take our word for it, past camper Nelson Olson describes it as “not just some camp where you just have fun, go swimming, go outdoors. You actually talk about the world. When people come, they’re interested in learning things. They want to learn more and to expand their mind and ideas.”
Along with the campfire sing-alongs and scavenger hunts, Take Action campers learn about issues directly affecting people in their communities. Days here are split between learning how to participate as activists pushing for positive social change and fun activities, such as dressing up for a night of fun at a dance. With the camp’s unique makeup, here, lasting memories and friendships are built out of discussion of what’s happening in the world around them.
Again, don’t take our word for it! To give you an idea of what kids can expect from Take Action Camp, we recruited former campers to answer questions from parents across Canada.
Questions: Scott Tabachnick | Toronto, ON| Father of three children: ages 9, 7 & 5.
Answers: Julia Sbert | Age: 13 | Take Action Alum
Q: What support is there after the bonfires are put out and the campers return home?
Once the campers go home, they can always contact their friends via social media, telephone or email for support or just to say hi. They can also email their counselors for advice. The counselors are so caring and enthusiastic. At the camp reunion (offered to all campers from the summer season in September), the counselors give a speech about adjusting to life after camp and offered support if needed.
Q: My oldest has been to sleepaway camp already, switching camps is a big decision. Why pick TAC over another summer camp?
This camp goes above and beyond other summer camps for so many reasons. Take Action Camp combines your passion for making the world a better place with fun activities. The campers you meet there become some of your lifelong friends, and because you want to see your camp friends again, you go back to TAC. You’re hooked. It’s just a perfect combination of fun and serious—you have tons of fun, but you still learn a lot.
Q: Describe a typical day at camp.
Campers wake up at around 7 O’Clock. At 8, we go to “morning circle,” where we stretch, talk about plans for the day and play games. After breakfast, we help clean up by doing the “clean-up dance” to loud music. It’s really fun. Then we make our rooms neat in order to win AJ the Garden Gnome, the prize for the neatest room.
Next, we have our first Breakout Session with our group. We talk about global issues, things we would like to solve and how to solve them. There is a lot of support, both from the counselors and the other campers to achieve your goals.[Then] we get choice time, where you can choose an activity to do for an hour. Activities include playing basketball, board games, arts and crafts, practicing for the Talent Show, and more. Then it’s lunchtime.
After this, we participate in the Minga Games—a camp Olympics based on sportsmanship and teamwork. Even the counselors dressing up in colourful costumes and cheer!
There are two more Breakout Sessions with our respective groups, one in the afternoon and one later on in the evening.
After dinner, we have a campfire where we sing songs, dance and tell stories. After that, we get around an hour of free time to shower, brush our teeth or just hang out with our friends. We go to bed at 10:00 PM.
Questions: Kerry Sullivan | Hamilton, ON | Four kids: ages 10, 8 (twins) & 6 months.
Answers: Abdullah Dwyer | Age: 16 | Take Action Alum
Q: Has attending TAC made you think about possibly becoming a counselor there one day?
Of course! I had an amazing time at TAC last year, and I want to continue my involvement in ME to WE in any way I can. I only have a few years left to participate in TAC as a camper, but I still want to maximize my time at camp. Becoming a counselor at TAC would be an amazing experience.
* Take Action Camp Insider Tip: Not old enough to be a counselor, yet? Check out our Leaders In Training (LIT) program designed for returning campers between 16-18 interested in leading groups of youth. Guided by WE facilitators, the program will help enhance your leadership and social justice skills though coaching centered around group dynamics and teamwork.
Q: Have you met any friends that you think will be friends for life?
During my time at TAC camp, I met so many amazing people. They all had great ideas to share and will no doubt create positive change in their communities and across the world. I’ve made amazing friends that I still keep in touch with to this day. Some live in Quebec, Nova Scotia, Alberta, B.C., and even Japan! I talk to these people on a daily basis. Even though many of us live a ways away, we make diligent efforts to see one another. I can’t begin to describe the bond we had all made, and I know these friends are for life. I’m grateful to have met so many great people during camp, I and look forward to meeting even more in the years to come!
Q: How has attending TAC helped you understand our world better and given you the knowledge to know how you can help make it a better place?
My experience at camp gave me new inspiration and confidence to become a leader and properly make my voice heard. Whether it be accessible workplaces, schools and buildings for the disabled or food security, TAC has both directly and indirectly opened my eyes to many of the common issues people face. Ultimately, TAC gave me a better insight into the struggles many of us have in our daily lives and opened my eyes to how fortunate I am.
Q: What’s one thing you learned at TAC that stands out the most in your mind?
One of the key takeaways I had from my experience last year was childhood hunger and food security. There was a camp-wide presentation highlighting the effects of childhood hunger and showing how fortunate many of us are. That presentation deeply affected me. It really opened my eyes to the struggles many people in my community have… even people I go to school with. That encouraged me to go out, donate food and explore volunteer opportunities at food banks and shelters.
Questions: Jennifer Caufield | Calgary, AB | Three children: ages 5 & 3 (twins)
Answers: Kimia Ataollahi-Eshqoor | Age: 15 | Take Action Alum
Q: How many people sleep in a cabin together? Let’s say my child is super shy or had anxiety, how would that be handled?
In the cabins, there is a total of two to six people. If your child is super shy or has anxiety, I think you should tell the camp counselor and tell the campers who would be with your child to help with reassurance. For me, I am a super shy kid, but luckily within a day, I had become friends with my cabin mates. As well, I think that if your child was super shy, the camp counselors would be a great help by encouraging them in daily activities where they could meet some new people.
Q: How many hours of physical activity are there in a day?
There [are roughly] three hours of physical activity spread out through the day. Every morning we would spend around 30 minutes stretching and getting to know the camp counselors. We would also do the same thing before dinner. Throughout the week there would be activities to do, you can either sign up to play sports, do art or just relax. The last evening at camp, they had planned a fun game for all the campers: a water fight! Even though I have two cochlear implants (when I take them off, I cannot hear anything) and they can’t [get] wet, I was still able to communicate with my friends. In general, every day was a fun day.
* Note: The hours of physical activity ranges from day to day and is dependent on what activities you choose. Not all campers will have 3 hours of physical activity each day. The camp does its best to offer a variety of activities, so those who wish to be more active can.
Q: Does the camp offer a nutritious meal plan? Do you learn about food sustainability based around meals?
The camp does offer a nutritious meal plan. All the campers learn about food sustainability based [on] the meals, [through] presentations. The presentations included information on what healthy eating was and [showed] a comparison on what [other people in Canada might eat]. Following this presentation, we were given an experiment, which was to eat what people [ate in Canada off of a food bank diet]. It had a great impact on me, as I now value the importance of food and its nutrition.