A life-changing week at camp matters more than ever.
Do you remember your first summer at camp?
Maybe it was the lake shimmering in the sunlight, the laughter of your new best friend as you ran across the field to the dining hall, or the warm, cozy feeling around the crackling campfire, when you knew this felt like home.
Now imagine that a global pandemic shut down your summer adventures. Camp can be such a memorable experience for kids, and it was sorely missed the last two years. This has impacted not only kids, but their families and communities too.
For Both Camps & Families, the Pandemic Hit Hard
The pandemic has been an uphill battle for summer camps across Metro Vancouver! With no camps to run and no kids to prepare for, many had to lay off all their staff. Sadly, some have closed for good.
“The camp lay [dormant] and I went up to it and I just cried. It was heartbreaking to be there and just there's no sound. You're used to 1,600 kids screaming and dancing and yelling. It was hard knowing that there's a whole community of people who need us and we weren't there.” - Shelby, Keats Camps
For camps that survived the pandemic, things look different than previous summers. After two back-to-back years of navigating COVID-19 restrictions and now facing the effects of inflation, UGM has seen the cost of running camp increase by nearly 30% this summer, during a time when families are already feeling the financial strain of the pandemic and inflation.
It wasn’t just camps — many of us felt the impacts of COVID-19, on top of now rising inflation and affordability challenges. The families that Union Gospel Mission (UGM) journeys with also struggled to make ends meet. From living paycheque to paycheque and pandemic job losses, to inflation increasing the cost of groceries and clothes — tighter budgets mean parents are surviving in a state of heightened stress. This directly impacts their ability to support their children — especially without having summer camp as a respite for their kids, and themselves.
“For UGM families who have consistently gone to camp for five to seven years, the pandemic disrupted that touchstone of, ‘Maybe things really are going to be okay.’ For a lot of kids, it’s gonna be a huge sigh of relief that they can have that normalcy back this summer.” — Breanna, UGM Staff
Thankfully, camp is back this summer and UGM families couldn’t be more thrilled!
Knowing that costs have increased exponentially for families, there are more families applying for camp sponsorships than ever before. But being in a place where you need to reach out for help for the first time can feel vulnerable, uncomfortable, or even shameful. That’s why when families partner with UGM, there’s no shame in asking for support. We welcome each child and their parent with open arms to help make camp experiences like this possible, that they may have otherwise gone without.
“Trust is a big thing. Families trust UGM because we've been in their lives supporting them in different ways…I think for a lot of families they are like, ‘Okay, if UGM has these camps, then we can trust that we're sending our kids to an awesome place.’” — Josh, UGM Staff
Camp can be Transformational for Families
For children and the families that UGM supports, a week at camp can be foundational in helping break generational cycles of poverty.
Whether it’s year one or seven, kids will get the opportunity to do things they’ve never done before: getting pulled behind a ski boat, trying their hand at archery, riding horses, daring up in the high-ropes course, making a tie-dye shirt, going on a hike, and so much more!
Camp can also be a pivotal place of healing for kids that UGM supports. Here, they experience the peacefulness of nature, build lasting friendships, and have healthy meals three times a day, and a clean, safe bed to sleep in. On top of all that, they connect with their camp counsellor who gets to know them and becomes a critical support, inspiring them for their future.
“For kids, camp is always a point of consistency through the years and even a sense of place — it's the same camp, it's the same lake, it's the same trees. For so many kids, reconnection to place is really important.” — Breanna, UGM Staff
Camp can also have a long-term transformational impact in a child’s life. When kids find a place where they belong, feel included, and safe to truly be themselves, the ripple effects can carry into the rest of their lives. They’ll know who they are, how they deserve to be treated, and learn to advocate for themselves. This one week a year can create resilience and have the power to sustain campers through growth and transition.
“I think for parents, it's like a godsend; they can't even believe that a program like this exists. It means way more than we can even quantify for some of these families.” — Josh, UGM Staff
Camps like Keats cannot wait to welcome campers back this summer with open arms — they have been dearly missed!
“We are beyond excited! This is the heart of what we do. My hope is that kids get a glimpse that things can change, things can be different — better. That every kid who comes to camp, including those from UGM, knows that they matter, that they are known, and that they are loved. As a kid, you just can’t hear that enough.” — Shelby, Keats Camps
How You Can Help
Maybe this has brought back all your fond childhood camp memories. Or maybe you’ve never been to camp, but reading this has inspired you with the power that a week of camp can have.
You can be part of transforming a child’s future! Partner with us today, to provide a memorable summer that will impact generations of kids and families in Metro Vancouver.
Give Now to Send a Kid to Camp
You can offer a child a life-changing week at camp. And until May 31st, all gifts will be doubled! Please give now.
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