Q. What summer camp did you attend?
A.I attended Camp Mi-a-kon-da on lovely Lake Wah Wash Kesh. It was a magical place, a small island, full of Birch trees, on this fantastic lake just 30 minutes from Parry Sound, Ontario.
To get there, you had to go by boat. And that was so much part of the experience, especially for a kid from Toronto.
It was part of my summer ritual. I went to Mi-a-kon-da first as a 12-year-old camper and went back for three more summers, until I was 15; the last two summers I stayed for seven weeks - for the month-long July session and the three-week August session.
Even getting to camp was fun. Our parents would drop us off at the parking lot of an apartment building near the Toronto airport and we’d wait for the big yellow school bus (no luxury coaches for us!!). It would take us all the way to camp - down the highway and then along that crazy, curvy dirt road to Auld’s Landing, where we’d catch the boat (during my years it was usually the "Hobo", this crazy blue and white odd-shaped boat that Mrs. L, the camp owner/director, had purchased because it could hold a lot of luggage.)
The Hobo wasn’t fast but it was reliable - proof of that "Change-over" day. That’s when the counselors would cede their jobs to the senior campers for one day. One year I was head of swimming and another summer I was the COD or Counsellor on Duty for the day - the big boss. I loved the responsibility and being in charge. Loved it, loved, loved it.
Q. How has camp affected your personality and career success today?
A. I think camp made me more confident. Also, I was at an all-girls camp. I think that was helpful — we did what we wanted; we looked the way we wanted; nothing held us back.
Q. Why is summer camp important?
A. There are so many reasons why camp is important. My family moved around a lot. So camp for my sister and me was one of the few constants in our lives. We knew that in the summer we were going to Mi-a-kon-da and we’d see all our old friends, kids we hadn’t seen for the whole year. And we’d pick up where we left off the summer before; we never missed a beat. And that was before the Internet or email or Facebook. It was hard to keep up with friends. But camp friends are different friends.
Camp gave us, as I said before, another look at life. It gave us an appreciation for the outdoors; it gave us independence, responsibility and a respite from the city and city friends. Camp let us succeed.
It gave us a break from our parents and it gave our parents a break from us. It was a very, very healthy experience.
Both my children are campers. While I missed them when they were away, I was also so proud of them that they were away and enjoying something that didn’t involve me or their dad. The experience I had a camp was my own experience, something that was just for me.
Q. What advice would you give parents that are afraid to send their kids to summer camp?
A. Advice. Hmm. I would say let your kids go; let them try it. My son, as I said, is a counselor now and he is well-trained at his camp to deal with kids who may be homesick or anxious. In most cases that anxiety lasts about a nanosecond - and then the kids are fine and having the times of their lives. So, do not worry about letting your kids go.
If possible, it’s nice to be able to go to camp with a sibling or a friend. While siblings wouldn’t be sharing a cabin, they are close enough if there are any issues about homesickness.
Camp provides a safe and healthy environment. It helps one grow up; camp builds confidence and independence. As well, camp friends are lifelong friends. Both our kids still have friends from camp - both our kids started at overnight camp when they were seven years old.
As you can see, I’m a fan! I loved camp. I highly recommend the summer residential camp experience.