On Thursday March 2, the Ottawa Senators Foundation are hosting their annual telethon. A show dedicated to sharing stories about people and programs making a difference in our community.
Meet Rosie Warden.
The greatest thing about summer camp is its ability to unburden campers of their baggage and allow them to see the potential in themselves and the possibilities life can offer.
For three epic sessions of 10 nights each summer, kids from underprivileged families, broken homes and troubled circumstances leave their woes behind and descend upon Camp Smitty, the Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa camp in Eaganville, Ont.
It’s a diverse group, but you wouldn’t know it by about Day 2.
“Nobody at Camp Smitty is from anywhere,” says Rosie Warden, manager of Outdoor Education and Youth Leadership for the Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa.
“Everyone is from the same place when you come to camp.”
They might be struggling in school or have behavioural issues or family problems. At Camp Smitty, named for former NHLer and broadcaster Brian Smith, kids come and be comfortable with who they are.
“None of that follows them,” says Warden. “They’re able to be their own person and understand that they’re welcome no matter what.”
The camp benefits from the support of the Ottawa Senators Foundation under its social recreation program, which provides funding for the one in five Ottawa-area children who don’t have access to after-school sports, recreation or social activities.
The foundation, has enabled more than 3,000 kids, ages four to 17, from 50 communities across the region to go to camps like Smitty.
Through the Boys and Girls Club, the foundation’s social recreation program also finances the region’s only no-fee competitive sports league, encompassing hockey, soccer, basketball and athletics
Warden says new kids often arrive at Camp Smitty uncertain about what’s in store. Young ones arriving for the first time can be shy, tentative. Older kids in the throes of adolescence can act like they’re too cool to go to camp.
“By the last day they can’t wait to come back next year.”
The camp doesn’t close its doors to anybody, including among its 90-100 campers kids whose parents do pay their own way. It’s designed to build social skills around recreation.
A typical day will include two all-camper activities such as running games in the afternoon and evening, with chosen skills education like canoeing, fishing, cooking, swimming or survival in the mornings.
Kids pick two skills to learn during their time at camp, the first session of which always begins the Monday after school closes – this year, it’s July 4.
They are also assigned to teams, each encompassing the full 8- to 16-year-old age range. The squads engage in team-building activities and challenges over the 10 days, earning points with the best of them winning a championship at the end.
“A lot of what the kids do is actually stuff they never get to do in the city,” says Warden, citing activities like swimming off a beach, sleeping in a cabin, tenting and the like. “The kids can just come and be comfortable with who they are.”
The Ottawa Senators Foundation, she says, is fundamental to the camp’s success. “I can’t say enough good things about them.”
By supporting Camp Smitty and others like it, the Ottawa Senators Foundation gives them unlimited opportunities to grow. Camp counsellors see it all the time, she says, as kids’ attitudes and goals evolve, and they aim ever higher.
Says Warden: “We all live in a box. Society now, the world is so much bigger than what you know. When you get the opportunity to explore a little bit, the possibilities are endless for some of these kids.”