Campfire songs a highlight for Clarke family
Going to summer camp is a family affair.
Patricia Clarke is the latest member of her family to have an exhilarating two weeks at Camp Arnes thanks to the Free Press Sunshine Fund. The 13-year-old recently sang songs around a campfire, belting out tunes about baby sharks, Tarzan and flipping frogs in frying pans.
Patricia has been going to Camp Arnes, just outside of Gimli, for the past five years. Her two older siblings, Khadejah, 17, and Lily, 16, went to the same camp for four years in a row, but have now aged out.
All of the Clarke children have nostalgic memories of their time at Arnes.
“Their main memories of the camp are, years later, are of the camp songs they sang there, the campfire stuff they did there, the storytelling. They talk about the friends that they made,” Clarke said.
The camp includes such outdoor activities as go-karts, a climbing tower and horseback riding. There are also escape rooms, ziplines, archery, canoeing and kayaking.
Omar Clarke, Patricia’s father, says that when Patricia returned, she shared stories of singing songs around the campfire with the new friends she made. She is eager to return next year.
Clarke is a single father who works as a service navigator, someone who helps people find health and social services they need, for Huddle South Central School Division.
He has been using the Sunshine Fund for years and said its application process is user-friendly and straightforward.
“They have the link on the Camp Arnes website. They send you to the Sunshine Fund, then you just send your information to the Sunshine Fund, they verify your income and you’re good to go,” he said.
At least 70 per cent of the families served are single-parent households, making them the core demographic that relies on the Sunshine Fund, said program manager Dana Moroz.
The Sunshine Fund is a registered charity that helps children from low-income families attend summer camp with subsidies of up to $700 per child. The guidelines for determining if a family qualifies as low-income can be found on the Manitoba Camping Association website and are based on Statistics Canada guidelines. The fund depends on private donations and grants to operate.
A total of 36 camps are accredited by the Sunshine Fund, a map of which can also be found on the Manitoba Camping Association website.
Applications to the program have grown steadily since camps opened up again following pandemic-related shutdowns, Moroz said. In 2021, when only day camps were operating, it received 100 applications. In 2022 it received 403 and this year it has processed 521 applications so far.
“We’ll help as many children as we can until the camps have closed down,” Moroz said, clarifying there is no cut-off date for applying to the Sunshine Fund.
Due to the increased demand, donations are needed more than ever, Moroz said.
“We wouldn’t be able to send these kids to camp and change their lives without donors,” she said.
How to Donate
Send cheques to the Winnipeg Free Press Sunshine Fund, c/o Unit F-1215 Henderson Hwy., Winnipeg, MB, R2G 1L8.
You can also call in with a credit card number to 204-784-1130. Donate online at mbcamping.ca by clicking on the “donate now” box and then going to the fund’s Canada Helps donation page.