Thursday, May 28, 2009

Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah, Are you listening?

Sometimes parents make mistakes. In some cases it can't be helped. Such was the case a couple of years ago when our daughter told us she no longer enjoyed the summer camp we had been sending her to for two weeks each year. By the time she told us, it was too late to make a new plan and so off she went for her fourth summer at Camp Tawingo. She is not a "sporty" girl and really prefers pillow-top mattresses and high thread-count sheets over a sleeping bag with a hard tree root underneath and peeing in the woods.(she is her mother's daughter!) Although I knew this about her, I still felt it was "character-building" for her to experience "roughing it in the woods" for a couple of weeks every summer. How can you call yourself a Canadian if you haven't awakened all stiff and damp in your tent next to a Muskoka lake listening to the cry of a loon and covered in mosquito bites? Since we do not own a piece of that waterfront, wilderness camp seemed the next best thing. The first 2 years she adored it. The third year she found a bit boring (she'd read all the books in the camp library) and repetitive,(got tired of making crafts with twigs ) and the girls were getting cliquey. Clearly it wasn't all S'mores and singing Koom Bay Ah round the campfire. But by the time she informed us of those details, we were already packing her gear for season 4. So, when camp planning time arrived for her fifth summer, we had to re-evaluate. Who she really was and where she would better fit in were our new search criteria. That's when we found Camp Centauri - a summer "arts" camp. We even had a friend who recommended the place. I was hesitant, as it was not located in Ontario's northern lake country. On the contrary, the site for the camp was located near Welland, Ontario (one of the armpits of the province as far as I'm concerned) and there wasn't a clean lake or a loon for hundreds of miles around. The camp takes over the facilities of a private military academy for bad boys whilst they go home for the summer. There is an above ground swimming pool for campers who feel the need to get wet, but other than that, there is barely a spot of shade in the grounds surrounding the sleeping barracks and theatre building where the majority of the action takes place. The camp offers programs in everything from dance to film to writing. At the end of each session, the campers present the fruits of their creative endeavours to all the family and friends who gather to retrieve their little creative prodigies. I thought it would be tedious and boring, but I was wrong. The work produced by these kids was really polished. The directors of this camp have so thoroughly impressed us with their talents and enthusiasm, it is difficult to know where to begin. Julie and Craig Hartley are the camp creators and directors and have manged to infuse such unbelievable joy and energy into what they have created, it is truly admirable. The staff they have chosen mirror their devotion to the arts and the kids who experience Centauri each summer come away with such confidence and fond memories, most cannot wait to return each year. They have found a way to draw out the best in each and every child and make it fun and inspirational. This past weekend, Emma and I attended a 15 hour Arts Marathon organized by the Hartleys and the Centauri Staff to raise money to fund the building of a classroom in a poverty stricken village near the Nepal/ India border. They teamed up with an organization called Elephant Thoughts. They wanted to give some of what they had been giving to kids here in Canada to children in a less fortunate reality. The goal was to raise $20,000. Here they were, 5 weeks before camp was to get underway for the summer, with a million details to tend to, instead, giving their time to this cause and firing up the staff and their families and friends in a real grass roots way.....and succeeding. (they raised over $20,000 in two weeks) It was awe-inspiring to see the enthusiasm brought forth by such a small group. There was an energy they all brought to the event that was contagious. That same energy is present at Camp Centauri every summer. Emma has found a camp that fits who she is. Last year she spent two weeks in the writing program. The poem she presented on the final day blew me away. Where did those feelings come from? This year she is going to try film. She told us that no one is left out at Centauri. Everyone is made to feel they have something to contribute and is encouraged to become involved. The Hartley's have no doubt trained their counsellors well. As she counts down the days until she heads to camp this summer, I am thankful we have found a camp that better suits her personality and talents. Wilderness camp had it's merits and she learned some valuable lessons there too, but it has taken this less conventional camp to really bring out the best in her and put her on a happier path to finding herself. Sorry about those nasty tree roots and the urine-soaked socks kiddo.....speak up a little sooner next time, we're always open to change.

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