Like mother, like son
Twenty-two years ago, Katy Ducharme spent a thrilling week at Roseau River Bible Camp.
Two decades later, her oldest son, Eli Ducharme, will head to the same camp, thanks to the
Free Press Sunshine Fund, which helps low-income families send their children to camp.
After one of Eli’s close friends raved about spending a week at the Bible camp this summer,
the seven-year-old begged his mom to enroll him.
“His friend was going, and we were going to try to get them to go the same week,”
Ducharme said. “But we didn’t really have the money for it.”
Ducharme didn’t want to crush Eli’s dreams right off the bat. When she looked into the camp, she came across a webpage about the Sunshine Fund through the Manitoba Camping Association. She immediately filled out an application.
Two weeks later, she opened her inbox to great news: she’d been approved for funding, and Eli would be heading to Roseau River.
“I didn’t realize that it was so accessible for us to have the coverage like that,” Ducharme said. “I just really appreciated how quickly and seamlessly it was to get everything we needed.”
In the past 40 years, the Sunshine Fund has sent more than 26,000 children to one of 31 camps in the province.
The fund relies on donations and grants to subsidize camp expenses for children. Applications are available on the association website, which processes funding requests on a first-come, first-served basis.
A family could be eligible for up to $700 per child, per year based on Statistics Canada’s low-income chart.
Ducharme, who homeschools her three children in southeastern Manitoba, is particularly excited about the social opportunities they’ll experience at camp. At times, she said it’s difficult to replicate the recreational activities Eli might get to experience more of at school.
“One of the really cool things for him is that there are all sorts of activities. There’s horsemanship, and rafting, and archery, and ropes,” Ducharme said. “Otherwise, I would’ve had to sign him up for all those things individually as extracurriculars.”
Given that this will be Eli’s first camp experience, Ducharme opted to stick with the day camp over the sleepaway option. Conveniently, the camp is a 30-minute drive from their home.
While Ducharme’s camp experience was tainted by pangs of homesickness, she has few concerns about her son enjoying his time at Roseau River.
“I did enjoy it for the most part, but I was a huge homebody. I got very homesick, very quickly,” Ducharme said. “He’s very different than me. He’s a lot more outgoing and he’s a lot more confident than I was at that age.”
Sending Eli to camp will be a test for his mother too.
“It’s hard for me to let my kids go to places away from me,” Ducharme said. “I think it’s good for me, too, to be able to let him enjoy stuff like that when I don’t have to be there and be ‘mother-henning’ it.”
Katy Ducharme with son, Eli Ducharme.
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