While it is early in the year to be thinking about your summer plans, military families may want to consider Camp Maple Leaf for their children this summer.
The camp was opened in 1955 by the Canada Council of War Veterans. Its focus was initially intended for under-resourced children, but over the years it has changed its focus to hosting children of military members, veterans, first responders. While this camp is located in Ontario, it is open to – and attended by – children from across Canada.
Camp Maple Leaf has a number of different sessions over the summer, geared to different children, including specific sessions focused on children from military families. There are the Kids of Heroes camp, focused on children who have hero parents – parents who have Operational Stress Injuries (OSI). They even have Camp Skein, which is a camp designed for children who are grieving the death of a parent or sibling.
At Camp Maple Leaf, they believe that bringing children with unique challenges together can do a lot of good.
April Young, camp director said, “We try to create a place where friendships can form, a place where children can really open up and talk.” To support this, they have their Hero Support Team, which is a group of specially trained mental health experts who are there to help the children cope with whatever challenges they face.”
One of the main focuses of the camp is to help children learn how to be resilient and confident. Camp leaders are trained to take the time and help children learn how to resolve conflict on their own. The camp team hopes these skills will help children in the rest of their lives.
Camp Maple Leaf is like any typical summer camp. Children stay in cabins and sleep in bunk beds; they have a variety of activities, from arts and crafts to swimming and canoeing; camp skill building; and even songs around the campfire. They also sing O Canada every morning and raise the Canadian Flag.
In the evening, before the children head to the nightly campfire, they lower the flag. According to Young, one of the goals of the camp is to build respect and understanding of our heroes.
The camp has an adult child ratio of 1:3, thus they are able to accommodate children of all abilities. Young states that they work with all families to accommodate children of all abilities, so do not hesitate to contact them.
For families concerned about whether they can afford the camp, there are special funds to help military families. Numerous people and organizations want to say thank you to military families, so they donate to the camp in order to help more children attend.
Each family pays $145 per child, and from there whatever they can afford of the price (this year, it is a total of $845), and the rest will be made up of donated funds.
These funds can be accessed in a variety of ways. Young says the best thing to do, if assistance is needed, is for families to contact her and figure it out together. She stresses not to feel guilty asking for assistance even if you have a good wage – life happens. What they really want is for kids from all backgrounds to be able to attend.
“We never want to turn away a child due to their family’s ability to pay camp fees,” Young said.