Hi folks, Sally here! Program Coordinator at The Land and accidental founder of a very new and exciting program that we are just itching to continue developing and delivering in the coming seasons. Allow me to explain.
We got an email last summer. Well, we got plenty of emails last summer. But this story, like so many stories nowadays tend to, began with one email in particular.
“I randomly found your page,” the sender began, before continuing on to say that she was in search of a swim instructor for her grandkids and for those of her cottage neighbour on Jack Lake, just outside of Apsley. Now, we have no certified swim instructors on staff (lifeguards yes, swim teachers no) as we tend to focus more of our instruction on how to float atop the water in our beautiful boats. Our conversation shifted to what we could offer as an alternative, and eventually we settled on a week of morning programming set right on their own cottage shoreline, with a focus on water-front safety, paddling, and most importantly: fun! Thus began the unintentional pilot week of what would become the aptly named Camp-to-Cottage program.
I pulled up to their cottage on the first day, and the kids were already bathing-suited up and raring to go. From the first minute, the week was full of activity and each day evolved to meet the campers’ energy – from flipping canoes to Cops and Robbers to building campfires even in the pouring rain (you might be surprised at how quickly kids will forget the weather when they’ve got a roaring fire to tend to!). Campers were asked to meet at the waterfront with a bag packed with snacks, towel, and water, so we could spend the entirety of our time together outside and engaged in play and learning, all while Grandma and Grandpa got a few hours of time to rest and recharge. By the end of the week, there was already talk of when I could return to run another week of programming. “Just drop us a line!” I said, “I’d love to be back.”
We didn’t have to wait long before we began receiving inquiries from other parents on Jack Lake – folks who had heard about our “We Bring The Camp To You!” experiment we’d run with the first group earlier in the summer. After the fun we’d had the first time around, I readily began ironing out details and planning the program. Given the uniqueness of this new camp format, and not to mention the slowly-lifting-but-still-limiting COVID-19 regulations of early August, we eventually worked with the parents to land on something that worked for all of us: We would send one guide to work with up to five campers for three hours of each morning they had booked. Each day, the campers could be any mix of kids from families who were comfortable spending time together and sharing space. And, most importantly, we would send our guide directly to their cottage property (this is about where the name Camp-to-Cottage really began to stick).
With so many traditional summer camps still in such uncertain states, this set-up offered the flexibility and engagement that many parents were looking for. No commutes, no worries about masking or lack thereof (we only work outside!), and campers are engaged, active, and learning with their friends right on their own docks. It shouldn’t have surprised us that it didn’t take long to book up completely solid, with fellow guide Dee and I running multiple camps daily for different families throughout most of August (and yes, I did go back for another week with my friends from the pilot!). In the end, we had to turn down more than one family who we simply could not squeeze in, despite our every effort!
So just what was it that we filled our mornings with during all these busy weeks? Honestly, that part was mostly up to the kids! Oh, Dee and I would come prepared with activities and schedules, but part of what makes this camp so special is just how personalized it can become. Campers want to pull out the family kayak and canoe? Great! Want to learn how to build a fire that can burn for ten minutes all on its own? Let’s do it. Want to get to know the plants and animals that share the cottage property with you? Awesome, let’s see what we can find. With one group, we spent nearly every morning on a small island, just a short paddle away, that we had all to ourselves. Here we built forts and fires and swings – then learned how to take it all down and return the space to how we found it at the end of camp. It really goes to show that you don’t have to travel far to find excitement outdoors – your adventure is out there; we just help you find it.
The Jack Lake community came out in full force to show us that this is a program that they wanted, that fit their needs, and that delivered everything they were looking for. We are so excited to bring Camp-to-Cottage back this season, and this time to reach more families who are looking for some adventure right on their dock! Check out the program listed right here on our page for more details.