Siblings Matthias (11) (front row, left to right), Timothy (7), Zélie (5), Tobias (10) and John Jacob Smook (back) all attended or will attend camp this summer courtesy of the Winnipeg Free Press Sunshine Fund.
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Winnipeg, MB, R2G 1L8.
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Summer camp a place to gain self-confidence By: Nicholas Frew
One winter’s day, seven-year-old Timothy Smook became sick and was coughing throughout the night. John Smook gave his son a water bottle he could drink from whenever his throat became too raw.
Unfortunately, after recovering, Timothy developed a dependency, using the water bottle as a security blanket.
"He didn’t want to give it up because he might start coughing or gagging," John said. "We had been working on him to get rid of it."
This summer, Timothy and his five-year-old sister Zélie stayed overnight at St. Malo, a Catholic summer camp in southern Manitoba.
When the parents picked them up, "We noticed he wasn’t attached with (the bottle)," Smook said. "He was able to go play and then come back to it. There was a bit more self-confidence that came with it."
Timothy and Zélie are two of seven Smook children. Three others — Matthias, Tobias and John Jacob — have also attended camp at St. Malo in previous years, thanks to the Winnipeg Free Press Sunshine Fund.
The Sunshine Fund relies on donations and grants to subsidize camp expenses for children of low-income families. Applications are available on the Manitoba Camping Association website, which processes funding requests on a first-come, first-serve basis.
A family could be eligible for up to $700 per child per year in assistance, depending where the family ranks on Statistics Canada’s low-income chart. A qualifying family would then be able to send their child to one of 35 camps throughout Manitoba.
Over the past 40 years, the Sunshine Fund has sent more than 26,000 children to camp. So far in 2019, funding has supported 614 children — just shy of its goal of 650.
Growing up, John said he was unable to go to summer camp and was envious of friends that could.
"I grew up in the country, so I was able to do quite a few outdoor things," he said. "But never the same as a camp, because they have organized activities and they can get out on the lake, go canoeing, swimming and all these different types of things that you wouldn’t be able to do in your own home."
As an adult, John sees summer camp as a way for his children to not only have fun, but also to develop as people.
"As a parent, you’re always struggling and fighting to have your kids grow up, become adults and to be able to fit into society," he said. "Camp allows them to do that, because they get different kinds of experiences that challenge them, but it’s also a safe environment where they test their skills."
In recent years, the family has faced some financial issues. And while John said they are getting by, he is thankful for the Sunshine Fund.
"The people who are donating — they don’t even know who the kids are... It really touches me that there is something like this," he said.
"I would love to be able to do it myself, if I had the money. But knowing that there’s something out there in place, it really means a lot to both me and my wife."
We Need Your Help
The Manitoba Camping Association has been sending kids to camp through the Winnipeg Free Press Sunshine Fund for 40 years.
To mark the anniversary, the MCA is planning something for the fall and we need your help.
Do you know someone who benefited from the Sunshine Fund when they were younger and are now in a place in their life where they want to give back?
Contact Rick Scherger at the
MCA office at 204.293.7339 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
We would love to hear from you.