Update: June 21st - July 3
Hello again everyone,
Well, summer has begun and we are in full swing with our summer camps. I apologize for the delay in this email as I am now a week behind but I will be sure to catch people up on the amazing things that have been happening here. It's funny because a constant question I hear is, "Well, I bet with summer here you're busy now?" I have to admit that something I did not anticipate when I came into this role is just how busy it is all the time. Summer doesn't really seem to be busier but we just add a lot more human beings to the mix. I wouldn't say the pace has changed but it is just a little more complex now. But it's awesome. Seriously, I love my job. Having the opportunity to do what I do is amazing.
The week of June 21 - June 27 was staff training and it was awesome. We had over 70 people here for staff training which was a vast improvement from last year. Staff training is just like it sounds. It is an opportunity for us to help prepare our staff for the work they will be doing throughout the summer. Staff participate in a number of sessions including "Being Called To a Mission," "Camper Care: Emotional, Spiritual, Physical, and Social," "Stages of Child Development," "Caring for Camper with Special Needs," "Taking Care of Yourself at Camp," and a brief introduction to the foundational beliefs of other religions and various Christian Denominations. Staff also learn water safety and emergency procedures, participate in various work projects around the camp, and learned about the new registration procedures and how to clean up around the camp. Another strong point of staff training is our gender nights. This is a chance for the boys to chill with the boys and the girls to hang with the girls. Actually one of my favourite moments from staff training came from a gender night when I walked into the lodge and all of the male staff were huddled around Overnight Male Team Lead Erik Davis and were praying for him. It was awesome.
We also made a number of changes to our staff training this year and it worked out really well. First of all, we trained all staff to work in all the areas of camp. This will allow for far more flexibility when booking staff for activities. However, not all staff will be running all activities because some staff are simply not comfortable participating in water activities let alone teaching them. However, it was great to see everyone at least attempting to learn how to do everything. Watching someone who has never kayaked before be able to successfully complete a t rescue is an awesome experience. It's great to watch staff find success in areas where they haven't even attempted something before is very rewarding and empowering for our staff. To see a young adult get the same look of excitement in their eye as a 5 year old when they know they just accomplished something is something that never gets old. Did I mention that I love my job.
Another change that we made is that we put everyone into what we called bandana teams. This helped us to facilitate everything that we did with staff training in structuring how they moved through activity training. However, it was also a good way for staff to get to know a select group of people. I was on the green camo team and to hear the stories and testimonies of why people are here and why they want to work with kids is the inspiration for why I want to get up in the morning. I heard stories during staff training from my group that made me laugh, made me cry and reminded me why we do what we do. This place is about relationships. It is our number one value and we try to reflect that value in everything we do.
And also, we have a lot of fun at Staff Training. There is such a great sense of community here at the camp and this sense of community was especially evident at Staff Training. People just wanted to hang out, have fun, share stories, talk, play, and just be with each other. It was a great week.
Also, as part of our staff training we were joined by Ambrose University, Prairie Bible Institute and Alberta Bible College. They presented to our staff on the programs they offer at their institutions. This is a great way for our staff to find out about some other opportunities that are out there for their post secondary education. Opportunities like this is something I would like to see us expand in the future. At Camp Chestermere we are not just about what we do here but we are about being involved in our community and letting our people know about some other great organizations as well.
In the midst of the business of Staff Training, I was invited to speak at the Calgary Christian School Grade 12 Graduation. For those of you who do not know, previous to my becoming the director I was the Vice Principal at Calgary Christian School. It was kinda like a coming home party and it was great to connect with kids who I worked with when they were in grades 10 and are now graduating. It was great to connect with all of them. Again, I appreciate the flexibility in this job and the opportunities I have to connect with various organizations and stakeholders in a variety of ways. Did I mention I love my job?
On the Friday night of Staff Training Sun West came and joined us for their year end youth event and it was AWESOME. They had two bouncy castles, a slip and slide, went power tubing, kayaking, canoeing and had a ton of food. Sun West invited our entire staff to join them and it was great. Sun West has been a great partner with us for the past few months and there are a lot of their youth who come to camp, are a part of our CLTD program or are on staff. Sunwest is a great supporter of what we do here at camp and I look forward to future opportunities of working with them.
We also sent out requests to our community in regards to our Financial Assistance Program and the response was amazing. We sent out a list of stories about children who needed support and within a matter of hours we had one individual donate $400, another donate $100 and then Hurricane Management stepped up and donated $5000 to the FA program. This means that every child who has applied for financial assistance is covered. AMAZING. Thank you to all of those who have donated to this program and especially thank you to Hurricane Management for the huge donation.
Our first week of camp was a middle school camp ages 11 - 15. We had 53 overnight campers, 20 day campers and 25 third year CLTD's. While this camp was small it was a great way to get into the groove of summer. Plus, first week traditionally seems to be fewer in number as kids are still finishing school and parents are just transitioning into the summer.
However, the kids who were here had an amazing time and we have been getting great feedback from parents and kids. Our staff do an amazing job working with the young people. The best promotion for our camp is word of mouth and this only happens because of the great job our staff does.
We ended the week on a absolute high though as we honoured a former Director Frank Littel. Frank was a director here for 17 years and Camp Chestermere is what it is today because of the great work of this man. Something Frank used to do was something called dead cow. He would barbecue a lot of food for the staff and then call, in a very loud voice, "DEAD COW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" We recaptured this tradition and barbecued for the staff. We then shot a video with all of the staff for Frank and then I called his famous Dead Cow. We sent the video to Frank and he was very touched. He sent a Facebook message to us saying:
"Had an awesome day as a camp director...opened my Facebook to find a video from Camp Chestermere with the entire summer staff awaiting a mighty bellow of DEAD COW from their new director Shannon Dean and...then cooked steak for my own camp volunteers and staff (all 75 of them) and tried to outdo Shannon's volume....I think I won. Thanks Collin for remembering me this way."
We are now just nicely underway into our second week of camp. This week is our 7 - 11 year olds and man the energy here is awesome. This week we have 114 overnight campers, 70 day campers, 10 first year CLTD's and 26 third year CLTD's. I'll send and update next week.
Thanks again for your support, love and prayers. They are noted, appreciated and needed.