by Cody Hill – Camper 2004-2007, Staff 2008/2009

I was fortunate to attend Camp Big Canoe through my teenage years, 13-19. In this time I changed rapidly physically, emotionally, and mentally as one does through adolescence. I have changed since, done some more growing up as one needs to do through school and entering adulthood. But nothing shaped who I am today more than Camp Big Canoe did during those summers.

Camp would have been the first time I spent a prolonged period of time away from my parents/relatives. At 13, this excited me to no end. When I arrived at camp, not knowing what to expect, I was even more thrilled. I was going to be under the watchful eye of young and enthusiastic staff members 18+? I had never experienced anything else like it. The collective energy of the staff is infectious. Even the shyest of children can be brought out of their shell by the daily goings on. Perhaps it is naiveté, perhaps genius, but the creativity that shines out of staff is best described as magical. After experiencing my first campfire session that featured a certain (and legendary) acoustic 90s song medley…I was hooked, and didn’t know how it could get better. Then I experienced LARPing (Live Action Role Play) through the forrest in Music & Drama, improvisational dreamwalks through Redisco, singing table games through mealtime, a special day trip to Willy Wonka’s factory, a make-shift TSTL tarp sauna, and so much more. After typing this (and limiting myself from going on and on) I realize the resourcefulness of camp counsellors is on par with Disney “imagineers”.

Obviously after such entertainment I was adamant about going back the next year and each summer afterwards. At the time I just did it because it was fun and my friends were doing it. But looking back a little wiser now I see why my parents would keep sending me to camp. I was coming back with more independence, having spent time outside of the family bubble. I was coming back with positive male and female role models, examples of wonderful, talented, respectful, up and coming members of society. I was coming back having lived in close quarters with someone other than my brother, and learning how to get along with those that you don’t necessarily agree with all the time in order to co-exist. I was coming back confident and focused on strengths rather than weaknesses. And I was coming back willing to try new things, whether that be something other than chicken fingers for every meal or whimsically singing and dancing in front of others. I could go on and on.

Some virtues took longer to seep in than others, and lessons were learned along the way, but in reflection there is no doubt that from an early age camp made me a better person. The values of Big Canoe have produced some of the kindest people I have ever known, and have had the pleasure of calling at different points in my life my idols, my peers, and my friends. When you run into someone from camp (it’s a small world after all) it is almost automatic how easy it is to fall right into that comfortable familiarity – a shared bond that keeps the spirit alive throughout the year. This is something I am so grateful to have been a part of and look forward to going back for in the future. Thank you CBC, here’s to another 50 years and plenty more stories!

Camp Big Canoe

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


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