Keeping camp spirit of adventure afloat
InterVarsity Circle Square Ranch Spruce Woods executive director Dan Ingram sees first-hand the impact summer camp has on a child — and believes it’s needed now more than ever.
"I have three kids of my own, two are school-aged," he said, "and I can see how COVID-19 (restrictions) limited their interactions with people and opportunities.
By: Gillian Brown
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.
"They have access to horses, and lots of outdoor space, and get to play, but a lot of kids who live in towns and cities are restricted in what they can do during this time.
"(Camp gives) these kids an opportunity to be in a bigger space, get out of town or the city, and to experience community, be around friends and mentors."
The Christian summer camp has started the Camp@Home initiative to offer families kid-friendly activities they can do at home.
To keep the real camp experience alive, however, it has decided to offer its first day camps, with programs for ages six to 17, beginning Monday and continuing over the next four weeks.
To Ingram, the most important part of camp is "helping kids have a relationship with God and horses. Adventure and other activities are part of that."
All of the activities Circle Square Ranch can modify to follow the safety guidelines set by the province will stay running, including the horsemanship program.
The ranch, located 50 kilometres southwest of Portage la Prairie, has been able to adapt to follow social distancing and sanitation protocols.
The camp will host 15 to 20 children a week, about 10 per cent of normal.
However, in doing so, the camp will host 15 to 20 children a week, about 10 per cent of the campers it normally would, and is projected to lose more than half of its annual income.
With the help of the Green Team of Manitoba, the camp can pay for nine of the 12 staff members who would otherwise volunteer.
They will work with the campers, enforce the distance and sanitation guidelines and maintain the site enough that it can run next summer.
Kim Scherger, Manitoba Camping Association executive director, believes all camps operating this summer face similar levels of economic loss.
Ingram knows how fragile camps can be financially, but he still does what he can to ensure families in vulnerable situations are able to have those formative camp experiences.
"That’s really helpful to say to parents, that we’ll remove the obstacle of the cost of camp. We’re just trying to break even on day camps, but it’s really helpful to say that scholarships are available," he said.
"There’s already the obstacles of travel, time, and distance, and COVID-19 concerns. So, to add financial concern to that is sometimes too much for parents."
The Sunshine Fund, by sponsoring campers, has been able to give that to these families while still helping Circle Square Ranch Spruce Woods find the money it needs to keep going.