The Salesian-run SummerDaze camp at St. Benedict’s parish has provided faith-based summer day camp to kids for a quarter century. Photo courtesy of SummerDaze

Campers celebrate 25 years of SummerDaze

  • June 7, 2013

TORONTO - SummerDaze day camp has been a safe haven for kids in Toronto’s west end for the past quarter century.

Twenty-five years ago, about a dozen campers attended the camp, opened by St. Benedict’s parish in Rexdale. St. Benedict’s is run by the youth and family ministry focused Salesians, an order started by St. John Bosco in the mid-1800s. This year, camp director Foster Kwon expects an enrolment of about 180 kids each week in July.

“It’s an intense four weeks,” said Kwon.

That’s unlike some of the camps Kwon attended as a child. He recalls being at camps where the counsellor would give kids the ball and then sit off to the side.

“Part of Don Bosco’s pedagogy of active presence is that we need to be actively present with the kids at the activities, at the various field trips we’re going on,” said Kwon.

“The amount of energy that needs to go into that is quite significant. So that’s the reason why it’s a four-week day camp… If it was an overnight camp, we would definitely have to restructure how we compose our staff and how we animate our day.”

Fifty high school students make up the staff, mostly volunteers, and commit to six weeks, including a five-day retreat to learn Bosco’s preventive system.

“The preventive system was an educational method that Don Bosco introduced when he started up the Salesians. It’s a way of ministering to the youth in a way that comes from a place of reason and love,” said Kwon.

The goal, he said, is to create an environment that can prevent youth from falling prey to sinful temptations or negative pressure.

“It’s a way to lead them to holiness without slipping to any kind of the cruddier stuff we get in the day-to-day world,” he said.

Some of the main goals of the camp include accompanying youth on their journey towards Christ while balancing formation and fun.

“The campers and counsellors, they walk away with hopefully a more deeper rooted conviction that what we’re doing as a Catholic Church as a whole is good,” said Kwon, adding that “they take away lasting friendships.”

As for the counsellors, they gain “a sense of accomplishment” and a “stronger conviction in their faith (as) they can see their work bearing fruit and its positive work,” he said.

SummerDaze will be celebrating its 25th anniversary on June 15 with 5 p.m. Mass at the parish, followed by the Ultimate Talent show at Msgr. Percy Johnson High School, keeping in tradition with the camp’s weekly Friday talent show during camp season. Acts for the show include those who have attended camp as campers or as camp counsellors in the last 25 years.

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