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Second generation of campers ‘so excited’

As Mackenzie Monias’s go-to summer getaway, Camp Wannakumbac lives up to its name.

The 14-year-old first attended the Riding Mountain National Park-area overnight camp when he was 10, on his older brother’s recommendation. Four years later, it continues to be a highlight of his summer.

“That’s the only camp he ever wants to go back to now,” said his mother, Marcia Monias.

Thanks to the Free Press Sunshine Fund, Mackenzie will spend the first week of July at Camp Wannakumbac. Every year, for more than four decades, the Sunshine Fund helps low-income families send their children to summer camp.

At Wannakumbac, Mackenzie will retreat to a young person’s paradise, filling his afternoons with archery and swimming in Clear Lake, and his evenings playing manhunt and bonding with other campers over the fire.

It’s not just the wealth of activities that draw Mackenzie back every summer. When he arrives home, he raves about his camp friends, new and old, near and far.


“There are a lot of the same kids that come back,” Monias said. “There are kids that come out from Saskatchewan, too, so (he’s) meeting people from all over.”


It’s those priceless connections that motivate Monias to reapply for the Sunshine Fund each year. Over the past 40 years, the fund has sent more than 26,000 children to 31 camps across the province.


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


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


Growing up, Monias never had the opportunity to attend summer camp. When she heard about the Sunshine Fund several years ago, she immediately filled out an application.

“I try to give them all the experiences that I never had,” Monias said. “I would’ve loved to go to camp, so that’s kind of why I sent my kids.”

If it wasn’t for the Sunshine Fund, Monias said she wouldn’t be able to afford to send her child to camp.

Each time Mackenzie returns from summer camp, he comes back with a long-running grin on his face and an abundance of stories to share on the car ride home.

“I have two younger kids, they’re eight and six, and I think it’s a whole relaxing vibe for him, being away from the family,” Monias said. “He definitely likes to get away and then misses us when it’s time to pick him up.”

Monias knows Mackenzie is making memories to last a lifetime.

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Mackenzie Monias, 14, with mother Marcia Monias.

Cierra Bettens

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