Summer camp experience builds leadership By: Nadya Pankiw
While Austin and Cohen Fitzgerald are off to Camp Arnes for their fourth year, Sabrina Johnson said her sons are already thinking about contributing to a place that has enhanced their summer experience.
"They are already talking about being able to give back themselves, and become camp leaders as soon as they are able to," said Johnson.
"They understand that yes, it is the Sunshine Fund that we use, and they know that there's other kids in the future that are going to need it. They want to do everything to give back so everyone can have their experience, too."
When Austin and Cohen first heard they could go to camp, Johnson said they knew they were "big kids."
Each year since, the boys, now on the cusp of being teenagers, returned home with stories and skills to last a lifetime.
From archery to capture the flag, camp always leaves them with a smile on their faces.
Without the Winnipeg Free Press Sunshine Fund, Johnson said she would not have been able to send her sons to camp.
"I was just over the moon at the thought that I would actually be able to send the boys because, honestly, without the Sunshine Fund, no way would I be able to afford it. I'm a single mom of two, and I take care of a household of five," said Johnson.
"What kid doesn't want to go to camp?"
Over the past 40 years, the Sunshine Fund has sent more than 26,000 children to camp, at a cost of
$7 million. This year to date, funding has been allocated to help 521 children attend camp just short of its goal of 650.
The Sunshine Fund relies on donations and grants to subsidize camp expenses for children who can apply for funding on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Applications to attend one of 31 camps through the Sunshine Fund are available on the Manitoba Camping website. If an applicant family qualifies, they are eligible for up to $700 per child, per year in assistance. Last year, a combination of donations and grants raised $220,000 and sent 614 children to camp.
Although the Fitzgerald boys are spending some time away from home, they plan to explore the outdoors and bunk together.
"Just the fact that they're allowed to have a safe environment to go to, for me, is a huge relief," Johnson said. "It's nice to know that there are still safe areas where you know the kids are being watched and being tended to, but they are also being told to use their common sense."
Aside from picking up on new skills and spending time outdoors, Johnson said her sons enjoy interacting with the other campers.
"It's a time to get away, to explore, be with peers their age and not necessarily always have mom nearby," she said, adding, however, one of the best parts about Camp Arnes is its proximity to Winnipeg.
"They are friendly, they are accommodating... it's a dream," she said.
How to help the Sunshine Fund
To donate, send cheques to the
Winnipeg Free Press Sunshine Fund
c/o Unit F-1215 Henderson Hwy.,
Winnipeg, MB, R2G 1L8.
You can donate in person with a cheque during office hours or in a locked mailbox outside the door. You can also call in with a credit card number to 204.784.1130.
Or you can donate by clicking here
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.
Cohen, left, and Austin Fitzgerald (with mom Sabrina Johnson in the middle) are off to Camp Arnes for the fourth year.