In what we hope will become a series of “what Camp has meant to you”, we are honoured to share the first installment.

Dina Imbrogno was a camper, Skills, LIT, and a staff member at camp. She has since traveled the world in pursuit of many of her passions, and now finds herself being an everyday hero working as a Fire Fighter in Toronto. We thank you Dina for doing that incredibly hard job, and for sharing with us, your love of camp and what it means and has meant to you (written in 2006)….

It is around the same time every year that I find my mind wondering back to the same question that I have been asked to answer for numerous years. I am one of many that are faced with this question; the question is simple, but the answer is complex. As years have passed my answer has changed, however it is in the most recent year that I have come to realize how very important the question truly is. It has brought smiles to faces, and tears of joy, it has brought very different people together and changed lives. It is every year that I return to the question, what is the spirit of Big Canoe?

In order to fully answer this question it is important to start at the beginning of a dark time in my life. A time where I let myself be miserable and forget the spirit. Going back a few years, I felt as I had been dealt the worst possible hand in the game of life. Not only did I feel sorry for myself, but I shut out those that were closest to me. I was in such a downward spiral that I could not see any sign of light. I trudged through life this way for a while and had come to the believe that this feeling might take over the rest of my life. I often thought back to the days when nothing but a smile crossed my face. Days where I felt whole and as if I could conquer the world, it was a time where I was surrounded by people who not only believe in me, but also loved me. This place was where I spent some of the best times of my childhood and teenage years. This place was like a dream when I looked back. I could not imagine life ever going back to this utopia. It is right when I hit rock bottom that I realized it was time to try and get back to that spot. That spot of course being Camp Big Canoe.

A good friend of mine, whom I met at camp years back, saw the bad shape I was in, and after months and months of talking me into it I finally got the courage to try and apply for a job at the last minute. To my surprise I got the job, and could not have felt like more of an imposture. I felt this way because I did not know if I was really able to go back to the person I once was, and I did not know if I would be able to handle the responsibility. In the end I took a chance and all because a few people had a lot of faith in me.

Upon arriving up at camp that summer I was greeted by not only the wonderful, amazing people that I was going to spend the whole summer with, but the beautiful trees, lake, rocks, paths, tents, cabins, porches, bugs, birds and most importantly memories of good times. I was overcome with emotion and could not believe I was there. For the first few hours I felt right back where I did years earlier. We laughed, we worked, we sang, we played, it could not have been better. However, the old me crept back up, and I was overcome with negativity and doubt. I broke down and cried on a friends shoulder, I wanted nothing more but to leave and go back to my comfortable couch where I had shut out the world for the whole year prior. Once again my friend pulled through and reminded me why I was there, and that she knew I was there because not only did Bill believe in me, but everyone else there that summer believed in me.

It is last summer that changed my life forever. I spent my days in the sun playing games and remembering what it was like to be a child and have fun. It was long days spent enjoying nature and realizing that this was a privilege that not everyone gets to enjoy. I suddenly started to find myself again and understanding how selfish I had been and that I have so much more than most. It was while sitting on the dock at Big Canoe, looking out toward turtle rock that I realized why I was there. It was in that moment that I knew I was not dealt a bad hand, I was merely on a detour in life. It was while sitting there that day with my feet in the water that a tear rolled down my cheek and I knew I was changed forever.

The energy that surrounds camp is like no other feeling on earth. It is a happy energy that is often very hard to find at home in the city. It that energy that I once let leave my spirit and that I forgot. It is that energy that now keeps me going every day and that makes me get up every morning. It is the energy that makes me try and it is the energy that drives my very existence.

This energy is the smell of wood burning, the sound of children laughing, the smile upon someone’s face. It is the ever embracing love that we feel when we hug each other after being away for the year. It is in every breath as well as every step I take. It is me and it is those who have spent time at Big Canoe. It is the reason I love and the reason I can appreciate the finer things in life. It is the reason I am the person I am.

I no longer think of myself as a dark individual. I know that because of last summer that I am once again a beautiful burning light. I am not only whole, but I am happy. I challenge myself to learn new things everyday and make sure that I keep the energy very close to my heart. I am a warmer person because of my experiences at camp and have had the wonderful opportunity to meet and remain close with some of the most amazing people I have ever met.

Each person that winds the gravel road of camp is special and unique. No one is ever judged we are all equal. We live, work and play as a team and no one is ever the weak link. Everyone has a spot as well as a purpose in the whole run of the summer. Everyone is made to feel important, the way life should always be.

It is the energy that I can say is the spirit. It not only shaped my life, but will continue to be a driving force in it. The spirit is something so special that can never ever be taken away. There is always enough for everyone. It is that little memory of camp we carry with us thought the year. It is that email we get from a camp friend on a rough day. It is the thank you that we say to our parents for giving us the opportunity. It is the smile that we give to a stranger. It is the tie dye we wear proudly. It is the wax we save from the last campfire. It is the time we choose to be positive instead of negative. It is the time we laugh when no one is around. It is the time we randomly start singing and dancing when there is no music. It is that little feeling you get in the bottom of your stomach when someone asks how your summer was. It is that wonderful, undeniable, overwhelming experience that we not only take everywhere with us, but tell the story about for years on end. It is that simple action we make of sharing our own greatness with others. Not only is the spirit of Big Canoe all this, but it is so much more that cannot even be described. I am certain when I say that the spirit of Big Canoe is far stretching, and it has and will continue to change lives forever.

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Camp Big Canoe

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

1 Comment

Heather Dahmer · April 29, 2013 at 3:54 pm

Absolutely awesome story…I hope everyone can read this and feel inspired when the days are maybe not as bright as they could be!

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