As school ends and we usher in the first heatwave of the season, it certainly feels like summer has arrived. But even as splash pads and pools open and restrictions around COVID-19 rules begin to ease, the summer still won’t be the same for some.
By the end of June, Kenesserie Camp, nestled along the shore of Lake Erie in Ridgetown, is usually brimming with activity as the finishing touches are put on plans in anticipation of more than 600 children arriving throughout the summer. But for the second year in a row, the camp will remain quiet, unable to adjust quickly enough to new provincial reopening schedules in time to safely operate the non-profit overnight camp that has been running in Chatham-Kent since 1903.
For Kenesserie Camp Executive Director Dan Richards, the decision was a difficult, but necessary one to make. He says government approval is just one aspect of reopening that the camp had to consider, and that the health and safety of campers and staff was their number one priority.
“We employ 25 staff throughout the summer and many of those employees are in university or finishing university; we just can’t take that chance for them or for our campers.”
Camp, he says, gives children an opportunity to make friendships and learn skills that last well beyond their time at Kenesserie.
“That week away is to build independence, to try new things—and to express their true selves.”
But all is not lost, Dan stresses, adding that the break will give Kenesserie a chance to focus even more on ensuring that camp is an accessible, safe place for all campers, a real focus for Dan and his team.
“Our mandate at Kenesserie is to ensure that financial costs aren’t a barrier to camp, (so we are) looking to make a commitment that 50 campers enroll in the Registration Assistance Fund, which pays all fees associated with attending camp.”
Kenesserie relies heavily on the community it has served for decades to help make these initiatives happen, and says they are looking for community partners to help kit up the campers, equipping them with everything they need to attend camp, from sleeping bags to duffle bags.
Financial accessibility isn’t the only way that Kenesserie strives to make camp a fun, safe and inclusive place, and Dan says they are using their time this summer to ensure that changes, like making bathrooms gender neutral and updating policies and communication guides, are well in place for next year.
“We want to make sure that everybody is safe and welcome here.”
Dan also wants all new and returning camp families to know how much the team is looking forward to next year, and shared his thoughts on seeing Kenesserie buzzing with activity again:
“We’re thinking of you and getting ready for a big summer of 2022. There’s nothing we want more than to see the camp full of kids and we’ll be waiting for you with open hearts and open doors.”
Would you like to help Kenesserie Camp continue to thrive and serve the Chatham-Kent community? Dan offers up these three simple ways to help:
Spread the word! Follow Kenesserie on social media and like and share their psots:
Volunteer! There are 25 buildings on site that always need upkeep but could especially benefit from some TLC now after 2 years of minimal use. There are also openings on the Board of Directors for those who prefer less manual labour.
Contact Kenesserie Camp for more information.
Donate! A monetary donation is always appreciated and goes a long way to helping campers have the best experience they can. Donate today.