Last summer, our big boy Marcelo went to his first real summer camp. Ok, he had been before to a short tech camp in the UK countryside, and to a one-week farm stay in Normandie, France. But this was a proper all-outdoor, far-from-everyone summer camp that North-Americans are so good at putting together.
It just happened that his (Canadian) best friend from London moved back to Ottawa, and told us about YMCA Wanakita. I flew with Marcelo to Canada, maybe because part of me wanted to be on the same continent – just in case. Lior, Amalya and I waited around New York (a short hop from Ottawa), visiting friends in the Hamptons, in Shelter Island and in Fire Island (that part still needs to be written!). This summer, Marcelo is going back and flying on his own this time, with 2 friends his age through Air Canada’s unaccompanied minor program. It’s a big move for an 11 year old but then, he seems to be ready for the adventure, and has been asking for it. I’ll just have my eyes to cry..:)
This is an interview that little sister Amalya did of big brother Marcelo last summer when he finished his camp and we picked him up. I’ve been meaning to post it forever. Now is a good time to remember the words of happiness that he had after this extra special childhood experience.
above, the boys marching towards their cabin on their first day at YMCA Wanakita
Amalya: Can you describe Wanakita in a few words:
Marcelo: Wanakita is very open, and you can decide a lot of what you want to do. You have lots of time to do what you wanted to do.
How long did you go for and was it the right length of time:
I went for two weeks, and yes I do think it was the right length of time. I have done 1 weeks camps before but I did not have time to do as many things as what I did in Wanakita.
What did you like most about the camp:
I liked how it was very open, also that there was a lot of time of doing what you wanted to do, instead of what was prepared for you. I also really liked some of the slots that we did, for example Since I am from England, I got to try out a bunch of new games that I had never heard of.
How was your sleepover in the wild: (called OT)
OT is Out Trip which is when we go into a camp site, bring up a tent and spend a few nights there. I really liked how we slept in the tent and could hear all the animal noises outside, owls or angered squirrels but I also liked how it was very quiet compared the actual camp which was a bit noisy. The food during the OT, I thought, was very very good, some of the best of what we had during the whole camp. Out of the meals, my favorite was the fried granola which comes with a little bit of chocolate sauce. I felt I should have brought a few games because we spent a little while on the island when there wasn’t very much to do because it was a small island. We went there by canoe, across the lake.
Did you learn something new during camp:
I learnt a few new games, for example I learnt Gaga Ball and Tether Ball. You need to try to hit the ball so that it hits someone else’s legs but if it’s your legs, you’re out and the goal of the game is to be the last one not to go out. The aim of Tether ball is to spin a ball around a pole until it tethers. However, your opponent tries to hit the ball in the opposite direction and make it tether.
I learnt how to stern in the back of the canoe, which means to turn the boat.
Your favorite activity:
In the whole 2 weeks, I chose to do crafts, archery, air adventures and kayaking. My favorite of them all was either archery and kayaking. I liked archery a lot because it helped me get better at it but I liked kayaking because it was just a fun thing to do it.
Your favorite food:
Oh that’s hard because almost all the food was very very good. I preferred the food during OT, the fried granola.
Your favorite game:
Probably tether ball even though I was not very good at it.
Did you do any water activity:
swimming, kayaking, canoeing, paddle boarding,
What animals did you see:
I saw a beaver swimming in the lake and then we saw him go into his shelter.
What sort of friends would you recommend this camp to:
Friends who like camping and being outdoors a lot and not mind getting a bit dirty.
Tips for homesickness management:
I would try most of the time not to think of my parents very much, but If I did, I would think that they’d be more happy with me having a fun time and not being sad instead of me being sad.
The achievement you’re most proud of:
Either the polar bear dip badge, which I achieved by swimming in the lake at 6:30am every morning for 2 weeks, or the archery when I got my blue badge, which was to get 30 points in 6 shots.
I took these photos the day when we picked Marcelo up:
this was the lost & found display at pick up, although we never found his hoodie! Maybe it will be there somewhere waiting for him this summer..
GOOD TO KNOW:
- YMCA Wanakita sits on 1,000 acres of its own private land and lakes on the shores of Koshlong Lake, in the Halliburton Highlands. It is 2hours north of Toronto, and 3hours north west to Ottawa.
- The camp organises a private shuttle to pick up children arriving by plane into Toronto. However, last year, Marcelo was the only child not living in Canada and attending the camp. His British accent got him apparently a few sweet comments! (my little French boy with a British accent)
- Most children come from Toronto or Ottawa and around. Many parents have attended the camp themselves when they were young, a testimony of the quality of it.
- YMCA is a charity-run organisation and not only this means that the cost to send a child to the camp is moderate compared to many North-American private camps. It also means that they have an active Send a Child to a Camp program for underprivileged children and you can donate here.
- It is open all year-round (imagine it covered with meters of snow!!!) and if we lived in Canada, I am sure that we would have already enrolled in their family camp experience!
Please do share any good camps that you know of! There must be similar ones in Europe but I don’t really know them. I’d love to find a French-speaking similar camp so that we can hit two birds with one stone (and I’ve always hated this expression).
I have bookmarked this one in the UK, and this one seems incredible but it’s a different proposition. It would make our life a little easier – and our wallet a little happier – if Marcelo did not have to fly all the way to Canada for a summer camp.
But then again, BFFs are best friends for life.