Doug Clark 2.0 – The Pee Wee Years

by Doug Clark – 1991 to 2017

I got a call from Jean Tompkins (Mrs T) saying they were starting up a Peewee Camp and could Patti & I join in with the Alumni Staff who would be running it. I would get a chance to be Gordon’s counsellor and introduce him to Camp. Very cool – and I was Bev’s counsellor two years later. Then Joanne & Alison’s counsellor with my sister-in-law Christy (Curtis) as co-counsellor. Alison, Joanne, Bev & Gordon spent many years at Peewee Camp as campers and then as volunteers. In parallel, they were campers at session camp and all were on staff. It is a very special time for a parent to share in that first camp experience with their child(ren).

That first year was the only year of Peewee Camp that I was not on the organizing committee or just outright organizing Peewee Camp. Through Peewee I have been able to re-connect with alumni friends and become friends with their children. I have met alumni from other years at Big Canoe who are now good friends and have been blessed to be able to introduce many “non-camp” people to the joys of camp. Twenty-seven years later Patti and I are still at Peewee Camp, as are some of our family, and our grand-children are starting to come.

For those not familiar with Peewee Camp it is a session that runs during a five day break for the regular Session Camp in the middle of the summer. It is staffed by alumni staff and their friends, many of whom bring their children as campers. Peewee Camp runs like a regular session but is modified for the the younger campers (6-9 year-olds). We have a higher staff ratio, a more mature staff and a less demanding schedule. Every parent who volunteers at Peewee Camp assumes a role as a counsellor or resource staff and their child is assigned to a Unit, sometimes theirs, based on input from the parent. Approximately half the staff do not have a child at camp – they are volunteering because they want to be at camp! And approximately half the campers come without an association to someone on staff, but they quickly become part of the Big Canoe family. All are welcome and it is the most fun thing you will do that summer! Shameless plug: Let me know if you are interested in sending your child or in joining us yourself.

Great Camp Moments from Peewee include: Lawrence was registered to come and was flagged as a boy at Registration. Turns out she only spoke French and as a 6 year-old was a little shy. She was a little upset until we moved her to a girls Unit with a counsellor fluent in French (not something I knew going into camp) and three campers in French Immersion for school. Lawrence had a very fun time at camp; A grandmother searches camps on the internet. She sends her grandson to Camp Big Canoe – Peewee Camp to try it out. He does a great Elvis impersonation at our first campfire and ends up coming to session camp for many more years; Randy Leamen – Mr Canoehead by day (canoe instructor), plays many other characters in skits during camp, adored by the campers, thought provoking morning watches, and slightly off-colour songs around the campfire after the campers are sleeping (hopefully); Major storms hit the area on the last night of Peewee Camp 2000. It turns out that in the morning the road has been washed out and we won’t be leaving camp that day due to flooding. The staff rises to the occasion and the campers say “Yeah!! Another day of camp!!”. We got an extra day and everyone had a great time – except maybe some of the parents who missed their kids.

Two years after Peewee Camp started up I got a call from Mary Casey – could I join the Program Committee for the camp. A few years later I joined the Board of Directors and this year is my 10th as Chair of that Board. All I’ll say is that a lot of work goes into running a camp and I’m proud to be associated with a great group of people who work behind the scenes non-stop to make the camp a fun, safe and magical place.

A few staff members “working” at Pee Wee Camp

Author Bio

Camp Big Canoe is a not-for-profit overnight recreational camp for kids ages 6-16 in Muskoka, Ontario, Canada

3 Comments

  1. Sally Jo Martin - June 12, 2017

    Thanks Doug for your memories of Pee Wee Camp at Big Canoe. You know that my association is with Camp Scugog but your reminiscences took me back to my first counsellor years at Northway Lodge in Algonquin Park. Begun in 1906 by a teacher who took a few girls to “the north”, It is run by an American family and most of the campers came from Rochester or St Louis. My three years on staff were really formative, confirming what we camp people know to be true – Camp is THE BEST! and memories linger long after the summers are gone.

  2. Steve Thorpe - June 21, 2017

    Thanks for your memories about big canoe. What ever happened to Christy Curtis? We met each other at Camp all those years ago and have fond memories of her. Thanks for the post.

    • Doug Clark - June 26, 2017

      Hi Steve – Christy is doing great and living in the Cambridge area with her husband and two amazing kids. One of whom is on staff at the camp this year!

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