Camping with a purpose

February 10, 2021 | Focus on Camps | Volume 25 Issue 4
Jason McDowell | Fraser Lake Camp
Bancroft, Ont.
Jemma Cotrone is dressed as RBG for a costume dance party at Fraser Lake Camp. (Photo by Karie Cotrone)

Last year, Fraser Lake Camp’s cabins, which magically turn groups of kids into little families each summer, went empty. There were no echoes of rambunctious camp songs to rattle across the lake. No one reached the top of the climbing wall to the cheers of their counsellors and fellow campers below. No one shared a conversation paddling across the lake with a new friend, sat at the dock to view a precious sunset or got dressed up for a banquet. 

For the first time in 65 years Fraser Lake Camp did not host an overnight camp.

While seeing the necessity, and certainly agreeing with the decision last summer, my heart also remains deeply broken for the lost opportunities. Camp is a place for community, for growth. Memories children make at camp often become cornerstones in their lives. As the director, I hear people share these memories with me, and it is truly humbling.

To be honest, I have the best job in the world. My primary task is to remember: remember what it was like to be a child at camp, remember what it was like to be a staffer, and to remember what makes us human and connects us. 

The pandemic hit right after I hired my last staff. Like a ragtag group of superheroes, we knew our families needed us now more than ever. So we pivoted into an online program called Camp@Home ( Amazingly, C@H ended up booking roughly as many camper weeks as our physical programming did in 2019—and from all over the world. 

It was a fascinating exercise to distil what camp does and then develop that into a two-hour daily program that aimed to achieve the same goal. Our tag line ended up being “Building genuine, social interactions online.” I’m so proud of our team, because they were able to make that a reality for many campers last summer, over the Christmas break with “Winter week,” and we will do so again this March break. 

It was such a success that this summer we’ll run C@H along our physical programming at Fraser Lake, which will include three weeks of family camp, and reduced-capacity, small-cohort experiences for children and youth.

After the pandemic settles, we will all need a place for unity, we will need a place for healing, we will need a place to rebuild ourselves and each other. We are excited at Fraser Lake Camp to do whatever it takes to offer that place. We are excited to continue being a nimble and creative force that can shift with the wind while still maintaining a course towards being a camp with a purpose.

Jemma Cotrone is dressed as RBG for a costume dance party at Fraser Lake Camp. (Photo by Karie Cotrone)

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