Summer camp to help address ‘social malnutrition’ suffered by young people amid pandemic

Summer camp
Editor's Note

This article is sponsored by the Ottawa-Gatineau Youth Foundation.

Since launching its Summer Campership Program in 2015, the Ottawa-Gatineau Youth Foundation (OGYF) has granted more than $1.6 million to provide a summer camp experience for 9,400 kids throughout eastern Ontario and western Quebec.

The OGYF knows that summer camps, if operational, are going to play an important role in restoring the “social malnutrition” suffered by young people, especially those living in vulnerable conditions, this last year. 

“I’m reading news articles and whitepapers, almost daily, as to the toll the COVID-19 pandemic is having on the mental, physical, emotional, and educational state of young people” says Danielle Robinson, president and CEO of the OGYF. “It’s one of the main drivers as to why the Foundation is proactively planning to support youth this summer by providing $250,000 to qualified camp operators so they can offer registration subsidies to families in order to give their kids a summer camp opportunity.”

The OGYF knows firsthand, having received stories and thank-you letters from campers, that at camp, young people:

Spend their day being physically active – As kids spend so much time these days inside and mostly sitting down, camp provides a wonderful opportunity to move. Running, swimming, jumping, hiking, climbing! Camp is action!

Experience success and become more confident – Camp helps kids build self-confidence and self-esteem by removing the kind of academic, athletic, and social competition that shapes their lives at school. With its non-competitive activities and diverse opportunities to succeed, camp life is a real boost for young people. There’s accomplishment every day. Camp teaches kids that they can.

Summer camp

Gain resiliency – The kind of encouragement and nurture kids receive at camp makes it a great environment to endure setbacks, try new (and thereby maybe a little frightening) things, and see that improvement comes when you give something another try. Camp helps conquer fears.

Unplug from technology – When kids take a break from TV, cell phones and the internet, they rediscover their creative powers and engage in the real world – real people, real activities and real emotions. They realize, there is always plenty to do. Camp is real!

Develop life-long skills – Camps provide the right instruction, equipment and facilities for kids to enhance their sports abilities, their artistic talents and their adventure skills. The sheer variety of activities offered at camp makes it easy for kids to discover and develop what they like to do. Camp expands every young person’s abilities.

Summer campGrow more independent – Camp is the perfect place for kids to practice making decisions for themselves without parents and teachers guiding every move. Managing their daily choices in the safe, caring environment of camp, children have the freedom to blossom in new directions. Camp helps kids develop who they are.

Have free time for unstructured play – Free from the overly-structured, overly-scheduled routines of home and school, life at camp gives children much needed free time to just play. Camp is a slice of carefree living where kids can relax, laugh and be silly all day long. At camp kids play!

Learn social skills – Going to camp means joining a close-knit community where everyone must agree to cooperate and respect each other. Kids share in activities, resolve disagreements and see firsthand the importance of sincere communication. Camp builds teamwork.

Reconnect with nature – Camp is a wonderful antidote to “nature deficit disorder,” to the narrow experience of modern indoor life. Outdoor experience enriches kid’s perception of the world and supports healthy child development. Camp gets kids back outside.

Make true friends – Camp is the place where kids make their very best friends. Free from the social expectations pressuring them at school, camp encourages kids to relax and make friends easily. All the fun at camp draws everyone together – singing, laughing, talking, playing, doing almost everything together. Everyday, camp creates friendships.

“It’s these types of benefits and positive experiences that will help the youth of today overcome some of the negative impacts they have endured this past year,” says Kimberly Biggs, CEO of Agence Pop Inc. and an OGYF volunteer board member.  

Brendan Bell – a retired NHL player, OGYF volunteer board member and an advisor with ONELIFE Wealth Management – says “it’s hugely important that the OGYF give kids, who might not otherwise have access to these experiences, the opportunity. And while there is some uncertainty about what the rules and regulations of camp will be, we’re very, very hopeful and optimistic that when it’s time for these camps to launch, they’ll be able to take place.”

“By offering a match, we hope to inspire others to give.”

Bell and Biggs are helping to lead OGYF efforts to raise its commitment of $250,000 towards its 2021 Summer Campership Program. On April 29 they announced that Aries Contracting, a highly reputable industry leader in both Ottawa and Gatineau, will match, dollar-for-dollar, $15,000 in donations to the Ottawa-Gatineau Youth Foundation to support summer camps.

“We are delighted to partner with the Ottawa-Gatineau Youth Foundation to offer a brighter summer to more young people across the region during these tough times. By offering a match, we hope to inspire others to give, and we encourage other businesses who can, to do the same,” says Aries Contracting president Keith Kennedy.

Summer campThe OGYF will accept applications from registered charitable organizations who have a history of delivering summer camps to young people living in the National Capital Region through its website until May 23. A committee of OGYF youth ambassadors, staff and board members will evaluate applications and make final funding decisions by June 14.

To learn more or to donate visit www.ogyf-fjog.ca.