Jake Woodcroft mentors a young camper in archery at the Catholic Youth Organization’s Camp Marydale. Woodcroft and Ontario summer camps are awaiting final word on whether camps will reopen for 2021. Premier Doug Ford has said they will but no details have been announced as the camping season draws near. Photo courtesy CYO

Summer camp counsellors await word on camp return for the season

By 
  • May 29, 2021

Jake Woodcroft has worn a few different hats throughout his lengthy association with the Catholic Youth Organization’s (CYO) Camp Marydale in Mount Hope, Ont., and Camp Brebeuf in Rockland, Ont.

Naturally, he started off as a participating camper, and those positive experiences filled Woodcroft with an appetite to work with the CYO as he got older. He got his wish starting at about age 15, and since then he’s served as a counselor (even the head counselor), activity planner and archery and canoe program overseer.

The 21-year-old wants to be heavily involved in the CYO’s Summer 2021 slate of activities, likely at Camp Marydale, but he waits in limbo for the Government of Ontario to provide directives that move the needle.

Woodcroft and older teens or young adult employees and volunteers are a key stakeholder group and are anxiously awaiting word on what the summer holds for them. Ontario Premier Doug Ford provided a glimmer of hope on May 16 when he told media that camps will “be opening up this year” in part because Ontarians are doing their part in lining up to receive their COVID-19 vaccinations. A spokesperson from his office said more details will follow once the June 2 stay-at-home order expires.

Ontario Camping Association (OCA) COVID-19 Taskforce member Mark Diamond, a director and co-owner of Camp Manitou, told CTV News that Ford left him a message “confirming that both overnight and day camps would be open this summer, but the caveat is that the metrics must continue trending in the right direction.”

But the individual camps, the OCA at large and students looking for some much-needed cash to help them pursue their studies await more robust guidelines than just the premier’s assurances they can reopen before they devise the most comprehensive and adaptive game plans possible.

Woodcroft, poised to pursue a master of arts in geography this autumn from McMaster University in Hamilton, is quick to admit that waiting for news is a tough situation.

“I am still concerned. I am very eager to hear back from Karen (Stevens, the director of operations for the CYO and Camp Marydale) regarding my job, and she has been very good with giving me as much information possible every step of the way,” he said. “It is definitely anxiety-inducing to not know whether I have a job or not this summer, especially as I work to save for school.”

Beyond the money earned, the life lessons learned from his job have been invaluable, said Woodcroft. The Hamilton, Ont. native, a Catholic, appreciates the faith leadership opportunities he is provided at Camp Marydale.

“I think there is nothing more inspiring than getting to lead liturgy. It was really a turning point for me when I got to start leading liturgy and prayers once I became a head counselor. I really learned about faith and how to teach others about the faith.”

Woodcroft says the character traits of leadership, communication, organization and creativity are honed through day-to-day camp activities like overseeing trivia battles, devising sport games and shepherding kids from station to station.

As of now, Woodcroft expects that he will be charged with supervising a “bubble” of children at Camp Marydale once the camps are open for business.

Resurrecting overnight camp programs after the 2020 shutdown would be a much welcomed and needed development for the CYO and other camps. Stevens told The Catholic Register in April that the team wondered “if our agency can survive if we lose another overnight season.” It’s a situation many camps find themselves in after the struggles of last summer.

Follow ontariocampsassociation.ca to stay on top of the yet-to-be-finalized camp situation.

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