What a Year at Camp Trailblazers!
By Colleen Wheatley
What a year! We began our 2015 Camp Trailblazers season in May with our 2nd West Coast Family Camp Trailblazers at Camp Fircom on Gambier Island, BC. It was great to reconnect with friends who attended last year’s camp and also welcome new families to the experience. We kicked off the weekend with a presentation by inspirational humorist David Roche that set the theme for a weekend of sharing stories with each other. We had 20 campers, ranging from young family members to adults of all ages and it was a great opportunity to share experiences and learn from each other. Of course, we were also able to sneak in some time for archery, fun on the water and gagaball too.
In June, we held the Adult Retreat which is our adult version of Camp Trailblazers. Once again, old friends greeted each other while we embraced eight new attendees (a new record!). We shared stories and photos from our past and childhood, and discussed hopes for our future as well as the wider facial difference community. Some of us were even brave enough to face the mosquitos for a hike (which turned into a race with our buzzing friends), while the rest of us enjoyed a leisurely boat cruise around the lake thanks to our hosts at Pow Wow Lodge in Huntsville, ON. The weekend flew by, but it can be agreed that we definitely made the most of our time together.
A busy August began with Camp Trailblazers at Brigadoon Village, NS. Here, we had our smallest group, with 13 campers, but we were able to solidify comradery within the group and continue previous year’s conversations on shared experiences of living with a facial difference. One highlight of the session was the talent show when campers got up on stage for rap battles, dance numbers, songs and special talents. In the summer heat we spent plenty of time in the water, having fun splashing each other at our outdoor carnival, and of course the campers would never miss the opportunity to get the camp staff messy!
This year was our second summer at Easter Seals Camp Woodeden for our Ontario Camp Trailblazers. We had an amazing team of local volunteers who were eager to support our campers and join in the fun themselves. We had several new campers join us for the first time, although it would have been difficult to spot the newbies from the veterans as everyone was eager to join in the fun right from the first day! Campers rotated through various programming options and then were free to choose to spend time on activities like the high ropes, practicing the arts, sports or joining in AboutFace discussions around relationships and self-advocacy. Campers were also treated to a screening of “A New Reflection” (directed by one of our camp alumni Pauline Beal, and featuring several campers). Campers enjoyed sending volunteers to kangaroo court, sharing their talents on stage and ending the experience with a BBQ and dance party on the last day.
Next, we had our first ever Family Camp Trailblazers in Newfoundland and Labrador. Summer arrived on the Rock just in time at Lion Max Simms Memorial Camp where we had five first time families as well as a few veteran campers. This camp gave parents the opportunity to share experiences and strategies to support their children as well as a Q&A with an experienced camper. Campers spent their time on the playground, getting messy with arts and crafts, and splashing in the pool. We enjoyed getting to know each other around the campfire and even had some special karaoke performances from the group. New friendships were made and we’ll all be counting down until we get to do it all over again next year!
Our final Camp Trailblazers took place in September at Camp Arnes in Manitoba where we also had the addition of seven campers joining us from Saskatchewan! This camp keeps growing every year and we had a total of 23 campers this year. Campers took time to share some of the challenges associated with having a facial difference as well as some of the benefits, such as getting to meet each other at camp. Campers climbed the rock wall and high ropes, rode horses, and found other furry friends around camp. We had an epic game of survival in the woods and discovered who could outrun the elements while finding food and water. On our final night, we were treated to “Camp Trailblazers Has Talent” with jokes, stories, magic tricks, dancing and skits (we have a talented crew). We had a session full of games, good conversations, smiles, and a little bit of chaos. It was a great finale to another amazing Camp Trailblazers season!
A special thank you to all of our donors and volunteers who make Camp Trailblazers possible each year!