Helen has a one of a kind story so I’ll let it speak for itself. She is now a teacher in England and also one of those people who, even though you only got to spend one summer with, changes your life forever. We here at Camp Big Canoe are so thankful that she took the time to write this down. Enjoy!

I have lived in England my whole life, but as I have family in Canada, I had always been fascinated by the idea of ‘going away to camp’ for the summer. On many summer vacations  to Canada, my cousin often talked to me about Camp Big Canoe but I never fully understood what she meant or appreciated this experience. Being the younger cousin I have always admired her and wanted to follow in her footsteps. So as soon as possible, I applied and was luckily enough to be ‘allowed’ to join CBC’s staff for 2008. I was excited and anxious and had very little idea of what was in store…

I arrived in Toronto in late June and was very quickly whisked into a car with my cousin and a fellow employee and we embarked on our journey to Bracebridge. For the entire journey I listened to these two (a Snelgrove and a Dupuis in the same car; talk about scary!) and they mentioned words I had never heard before and found myself thinking…
What does II mean? Where are the elephants? Mouse or Rat? Where is this Cheese-House? I had a lot to learn, and quickly.

The moment we pulled into the camp yard I was greeted by numerous people who literally ‘ran’ out of Bill’s place to say hey. Bill himself stood back and I remember exactly what he said… ‘Hug or Handshake?’ My immediate thoughts were ‘Oh goodness, don’t live up the British stereotype, hug the guy!!’ From then I was part of the gang and I fell in love with CBC and all it’s charms. The heart of the people and spirit of the place are a feeling I will not forget. Plus the many experiences from that summer; which range from watching Canada Day fireworks in a canoe, to listening to an acoustic guitar remix of Kanye West’s Stronger, to making tiger balls, to the unforgettable 3-day canoe trip! As any Unit Counsellor would agree, there are far too many to write down.

When I came back to England after the summer, I was asked by so many people about my experience of a Canadian summer camp. It was so hard to explain, as there are no words which do the place justice. What struck me most were the good vibes and real sense of community which resonate around Hart Lake. CBC has something so special and I will always remember my times there so fondly.

Due to the brilliance of today’s social networking, I have been able to keep in touch with many of the life-long friends I made that summer. You know who you are! Some of these friends have made the trip across the Atlantic to England to visit, others have been a shoulder to cry on and some are the most important people in my life. The spirit of Big Canoe lives in every one of these great people.

Even though my time at Big Canoe was relatively short, it changed me in so many positive ways and if anyone out there is debating whether CBC is right for them, I would encourage you to go for it. It’s an experience worth having and the joy is there to share.

Undoubtedly, the best possible way to spend a summer!!

If you liked Helen’s story, please share the link on Facebook! If you’re on twitter, tweet about it! Don’t forget to use the hashtags #CampBigCanoe #keepingthespiritalive and #whatsyourstory

Most importantly if this story made you start remembering your own, we’d love to hear them! Contact us here or on Facebook if you’d like to write your own. We can’t wait to hear from you!


Camp Big Canoe

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


Henry Clark · May 1, 2014 at 1:52 pm

I know Helen well and have heard her talk about Camp Big Canoe. I think that the North American tradition of long, involved summer camps is a great idea, and gives so many people (kids and adults) lasting memories of the outdoors and the passion to preserve it properly for future generations.

Whilst in the US last year, I went on a 4 day, 3 night wilderness canoe trip, with my wife, in Utah and we had the most amazing experience. You see the world from a different viewpoint paddling a canoe down a river or across a lake. It is an experience that everyone should have. Say YES. You won’t regret it.


Heather Dahmer · May 1, 2014 at 6:48 pm

Awesome blog!!

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