One big happy (camping) family
Kelly McQuade has been sending her six children to Manitoba Pioneer Camp for the past 13 years.
This year, McQuade’s daughter Sarah-Joy spent just over a week at the camp. As a leader-in-training this year, she was taken to the camp to train and prepare for its day camp starting next week in Winnipeg.
"It was very important (to go to camp this year). I was very, very excited," said Sarah-Joy. "I want to help be a leader there and be able to lead other kids and be a good leader like the one I had when I was there."
McQuade can send her kids to camp every year because of the Winnipeg Free Press Sunshine Fund, which helps low-income families send their children to camp.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed how a lot of camps are operating this year, including Manitoba Pioneer Camp, which is transitioning to a day camp in the city next week. McQuade said she’s happy Sarah-Joy has the opportunity to be a leader.
"It’s been an every year priority for my kids and Sarah-Joy was upset about missing (this year) because her age specifically, it would set her back in climbing the ladder to working there," said McQuade. "She was super excited because it’s like crossing over the threshold. She’s gone to camp for so many years and she’s finally got to the leader-in-training stage. She and all the girls she’s been going to camp with all these years get to have this victory together."
So far, the Sunshine Fund has sent 89 kids to camp this summer. The organization said applications are still coming in and it encourages parents to apply so their kids can go to camp this summer.
The Sunshine Fund relies on donations and grants. Families interested in accessing funding can submit an application through the Manitoba Camping Association website, which processes funding requests on a first-come, first-served basis.
McQuade said the camp experience is a big deal for her family.
"It’s not just sending the kids to camp to get them out of the house for a couple weeks… for us it’s a huge deal," she said. "…They’ll talk about what they did at camp from camp time until around the new year. And then from the new year on, they talk about when they get to go to camp again… that’s the table talk for supper."
McQuade said last year all six of her children were able to go to camp at the same time because of the Sunshine Fund. At that time, her six-year-old went to camp for the first time and her 18-year-old was working at the camp after gaining leadership skills throughout the year. "Now they have a community of support and they’ve got references and they go and get a job. That’s what Sarah-Joy is working toward, too."
By: Kellen Taniguchi
How to help
To donate, send cheques to the Winnipeg Free Press Sunshine Fund, c/o Unit F-1215 Henderson Hwy., Winnipeg, MB, R2G 1L8.
You can also call in with a credit card number to 204-784-1130, or donate online at mbcamping.ca, clicking through to the fund’s Canada Helps donation page.