The long, lazy days of summer vacation are on the horizon, and the first question for many parents is how to keep their children entertained. Camp Maple Leaf gives military families a perfect solution and helps children to rediscover the outdoors while connecting them to other military children.
Camp Maple Leaf is a non-for-profit sleepover camp for both children of Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) families and children living with unique challenges.
Located on a 104 acre private land on Pigeon Lake in Kawartha Lakes, Ontario, the camp promises to be a technology-free week for children to enjoy being children again.
“Camp is not uniquely Canadian, but it is certainly a proud Canadian summer pastime for children. It’s, particularly now, I think it’s of major value to reduce children from screens and some influences that are with them all the time and allows them just to become kids again.
“With our mission to serve military families it allows military children to meet with other children and be with other children who have shared family backgrounds and shared family experiences that are unique and not the same as children whose parents are not in the military,” said Kim Smith, Executive Director of Camp Maple Leaf.
An open house for the camp will be held on June 25. After that, eight one-week sessions will run throughout summer starting July 3. Five of those sessions are dedicated entirely to military children and will run throughout the month of July.
Children will enjoy a wide variety of activities to enjoy the great outdoors including swimming, canoeing, fishing, sports, arts and crafts, archery, biking and learning camping skills. Nights at the camp will be spent around campfires celebrating the successes of the day through song.
“We are fortunate to have a number of staff who have gone through the camp as campers and are military brats and are now able to assist and share their experience with our campers,” added Smith.
The rest of the three weeks of Camp Male Leaf will be dedicated to children with special needs.
Camp Maple Leaf was established in 1955 by the Canadian Council of War Veterans. The camp was then run by the Banyan Community Services and in 2015 ownership of the camp transferred to Kim and Marilyn Smith of the Camp Tanamakoon Charitable Foundation.
This will be Smith’s first year running the camp and he’s undertaken many renovations in preparing for this summer including renovating the dining room, building new swim docks, landing docks, and purchasing tents and camping equipment.
Smith’s father was Second World War veteran, and Smith believes in the principles the camp was founded on.
“When we came upon Maple Leaf, and we realized that Maple Leaf was serving Canadian military families and what a tremendous history the camp had and this connection with military families, it was just a no-brainer that we had to continue that connection and try to expand on it,” stated Smith.
The camp draws heavily from its deep-rooted history with the military. Smith explains that a military memorial on-site will be an important place of gathering for the children to learn about Canada’s military history and honour the fallen.
Cost for one week at Camp Maple Leaf is $795 and includes transportation. However, Smith says families can choose how much they pay. Military families can choose to pay $600 if they can’t afford that then $400 and if they can’t afford that funding is lined up for parents to send their children to camp for as little as $75.
The Canadian Forces Morale and Welfare Services’ (CFMWS) Support Our Troops Program also awards money to attend camps as part of their National Camps Program. Families can receive a grant for up to $600 for a week-long, accredited, away-camp; a grant for $400 for a week-long, accredited, day-camp; or a grant for up to $1,000 to cover camp expenses for special needs children for one week of camp.
Dependents of deceased, ill and injured or deployed CAF members are eligible for this grant.