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New discovery, new memories made at summer camp

For Andrea Crait’s two children, spending a week at Camp Arnes is the highlight of summer.


However, as a single mother who works part time, registering for camp comes with a hefty price tag.


This year, things are different. After hearing about the Winnipeg Free Press Sunshine Fund through a friend, Crait decided to apply. Every year, the fund helps low-income families send children to camp.


“I didn’t know it existed,” Crait said. “In prior years, I had to borrow money to send them and pay it off slowly.”


Thanks to the Sunshine Fund, Crait sent Evangeline, 13, and Jorden, 9, to camp without having to take on debt.


Earlier this summer, Evangeline attended Camp Arnes as a “challenger,” a level designed for campers between the ages of 11 and 13. This time around, she had the opportunity to hone specific skills each day with help from the camp’s skill co-ordinator team.


“We got to do biking. We got a bigger cabin, and it was warmer. We got to play more games during the day,” Evangeline said.


As an “explorer,” Jorden enjoyed climbing up the high-ropes course, singing in the lighthouse and making new friends. When asked about his favourite activity, capture the flag came to mind.


“It’s just fun,” Jorden said. “I really liked my cabin.”


Over the past 40 years, the Sunshine Fund has sent more than 26,000 children to one of 31 summer camps in the province.


The fund relies on donations and grants to subsidize expenses for children. Applications are available on the Manitoba Camping Association website, which processes funding requests on a first-come, first-served basis.


Based on Statistics Canada’s low-income chart, a family could be eligible for up to $700 per child, per year.


With extra money to spare, Crait was able to purchase new sleeping bags and camp essentials for her children.


Despite the financial costs associated with it, Crait has always felt it was important to send her youngsters to camp. With the wealth of skill-building and social opportunities at their disposal, a week at Camp Arnes (located on the southwestern shore of Lake Winnipeg between Riverton and Gimli) instils them with confidence and happiness, she said.


“I want to feel like they’re getting their independence,” Crait said. “They’re so used to having me around.”


Though Evangeline and Jorden’s 2023 camp experience has passed, Crait is hopeful it won’t be the last. She plans to apply for the Sunshine Fund in 2024.


“I would like to send them next year again for sure,” she said. “They love it so much.”

Andrea Crait and her children Evangeline Crait, 13, and Jorden Blanco-Coates, 9, in Winnipeg on Friday, July 21, 2023. Thanks to the Winnipeg Free Press Sunshine Fund, Andrea will be able to send her kids to Camp Arnes debt-free this year.

Cierra Bettens

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