Update: July 5-12
Hello again everyone.
I hope this email finds you well and hopefully not too affected by the storm that blew through here on Sunday morning. To those people who have lost property and have damage to their homes we are thinking of you and praying for you. In some ways this is far too familiar to 2013 with, thankfully, a lot less damage. However, I spoke to a woman yesterday who's home has been condemned due to damage to her home and I know of someone else who's neighbour's house burned to the ground from a lightning strike. Again know our thoughts and prayers are with you.
I am happy to report that everyone here at camp is safe and we were able to open for this week. However, we did get a little pounded by the storm. Five of our buildings took in water. The Chap was the most affected as the basement filled up with almost 2 feet of water. The water in the lake rose so high that a boat belonging to one of our volunteers was picked up off of the lift and floated away, there were three confirmed lightning strikes that hit the ground at the camp, our fire pit area was nearly washed away, our target shooting area was damaged, the beach was heavily damaged, and there were various other small areas around the camp that were damaged. However, no major damage was done and everyone is safe and ok. Our volunteer also got his boat back. I am also happy to report that none of the the staff residences were affected by the storm.
I will say this though, it is amazing how this city comes together to support each other. I sent out some text messages and some posts on social media and the number of people who responded to come and help was amazing. City of Chestermere Mayor Patricia Matthews organized a group of people who came and helped immediately with whatever needed to be done. One of the people who responded was newly elected Wildrose MLA Leela Aheer. However, as we were walking around the site and I showed her what needed to be done she said to me, "I'm here as a mom who has sent her kids here and loves this place and knows how much this place does for kids. I just wanted to come and help." I just loved her attitude of it wasn't about her or her position but it was about helping the camp so the camp could serve the community again. Mayor Matthews also shares in this attitude of it being about helping the camp support the community and I think it is great how so many of the key leaders in this community support the work of so many organizations in the community, including Camp Chestermere. Mayor Matthews also sent over a couple of boxes of donuts for our staff which were appreciated and did not last long.
Former Camp Medic Nikki Bridger and her family also came and helped to get water out of down under. People brought tools and equipment and man power and just jumped in and did whatever needed to be done. Also, special mention needs to be made of CLTD Coordinator Marie (Willis), Overnight Male Team Lead Erik (Baloo), Office Manager Chantel (Lilac), Assistant Office Manager Amanda (Calico), Summer Staff members Nic (Asaph), Nicola (Anchor), Becki (Periwinkle), Liam (Genie), Pam (Monkey), Matt (Tarzan), and Ryan (The Walrus) who all came in early to help get the camp ready for campers who were on their way. Momma Ruth also came in and just started cooking food like crazy for all of the volunteers who were some. Most of the people I mentioned above didn't get to really eat anything until well after noon and some started working as early as 8 am. It was amazing to see these people just do whatever needed to be done to get this place ready to accept kids.
The rest of the staff started to arrive later in the day and again jumped right in to help us prepare. We ended up delaying registration until 7pm and parents were awesome about being understanding of the situation. But we are open, functioning and in full swing. Also, a huge thank you to Board Chair Glenn Minnesma for organizing new sand through Wilco for the beach area. Most of our sand was washed away and our beach was heavily damaged. Glenn organized all of this while away on holidays. Again, it's encouraging to see how many people care about this place and do whatever needs to be done to help.
I also received an email and a phone call from two different camps in Alberta asking if everyone here was safe and ok. It is just awesome the expressions of concern and support we have received from everyone. It truly is a blessing to know that people care about us and were concerned about how we were doing. We have also had a lot of volunteers out to help since Sunday. Bookkeeper Heather (Bookie) showed up yesterday to help with the clean up efforts. Thank you to all of the people who have been able to come and help.
In regards to camp last week, it was HOT. Wow. We had 7 - 11 year olds last week for overnight and the energy was awesome. In terms of numbers, we had 114 overnight campers, 69 day campers and 10 1st year CLTDs. The kids were like energizer bunnies and just kept going and going and going and going. However, the heat made it somewhat challenging in a few different regards. First of all, when it's hot all day and then all night, some people tend to get a little more agitated a little more quickly and so our staff had to do a great job at keeping kids calm during some of our more competitive games. Also, our staff learned that a lot of heat mixed with not enough water and too much candy can lead to candy not staying in the stomachs of some children. Cleaning up some messes was a bit of a challenge last week. But to watch a 16 year old staff member sit with a child and rub their back while they "toss their cookies" into a bucket is something that will warm your heart. Our staff did an amazing job with kids last week given the constant heat and I am incredibly proud of the job they did.
Honestly, our summer staff is amazing. They truly love kids and do an amazing job. I told the staff during staff training that a successful week is judged by the number of kids who go home at the end of the week with a smile on their face and they want to come back again. On the final day last week, the vast majority of kids were running around asking all of our staff for their autographs. It was incredibly encouraging. Our staff are nailing it. Kids are going home with smiles on their faces and are wanting to come back again. Watching staff piggy back kids from one activity to the next, leading them in fun camp songs, telling silly stories, making up games so kids will jump in and clean. One of our Summer Staff Tim (Rushmore) is now famous for his Tiger Woods 100 mile journey to the golf tournament story to help kids go to sleep. Summer staff could be working anywhere else doing way less work for far more pay and here they are making not nearly what they deserve and just loving kids. This is what makes me love my job. To watch how much these teenagers and young adults give to the campers who come is nothing short of awe inspiring. Seriously, just come for a day and watch the magic happen.
We also took the older campers on an out trip to Fish Creek Park. Program Coordinator Vicki (Ninja), Summer Staff Member Abi (Scout), and the rest of the cabin leaders who lead the trip did a great job with the event. They especially did a great job in keeping the kids safe and calm when the bus ended up breaking down on the way back to the camp. Everyone made it back safe and sound but it was a bit of an adventure getting everyone back to the camp. However it was a great chance for us to provide a different opportunity to some of our older campers.
Some other highlights from last week were the Carnival Event, our Stampede Theme Event in Day Camp, we had a new staff members leading the songs in fireside and we had some epic power tubing flips. (Video to follow on website soon). Honestly, if you know someone who is looking for something for their kids to do this summer then send them this way because Camp Chestermere rocks.
Our guest speaker last week was Zach Manntai. Zach has been here before and always does a great job. Zach was also the first speaker to stay in our new speakers room which is finally done (well almost). Zach's dog Charlie was also a hit last week as many kids played with Charlie. Charlie spent a lot of time in the lake, chasing sticks/logs thrown by kids and just hanging out with the campers. Zach presented the bible in a very simplistic way in a story time format and it was awesome. The kids were super engaged and we heard lots of great feedback from them. If you're looking for a speaker for a kids event then I would highly recommend Zach.
On Friday night we held our CLTD Grad. CLTD stands for Christian Leadership Training and Discipleship. It is a three year program with the first year called Foundations, second year Discipleship and third year Leadership. The hope is that at the end of their third year that CLTD's will come on as staff and the vast majority of them do. Last week the third year CLTD's did their practicum week and did an amazing job. Their grad on Friday night consisted of them joining staff for supper and then their parents came for refreshments. After the refreshments, there was the actual graduation ceremony where the CLTD's received a dog tag with their Camp Name and the year they completed CLTD. The CLTD Leaders mentioned something personal about each graduating CLTD. After the ceremony all of the CLTD's jumped in the lake together. Many other staff also joined them in the lake. It was an amazing night of fun and celebration. We also had a number of former staff join us for the graduation including Shelly Johnson, Sam Northey, Cody Madore, and Shay Daws.
Our CLTD program is amazing and the leaders who run it, Coordinator Marie Picard (Willis), and Leaders Kylie Berstad (Trinket), Gary Lewis (Rahfiki), and Evan Shier (Stret) do an incredible job with the program. The program is for students in grades 9 - 11 and the leadership skills the CLTD's learn in this program are applicable to all areas of their life. It's a great program and an integral part of the work we do here.
Also on Friday we continued the tradition of Dead Cow. However, each week is themed differently so we may need to rename the tradition. Momma Ruth and Sherry (Currie) outdid themselves once again with the meal they prepared. Friday supper is a great way for staff to hang out and share stories about the week.
Thank you again for your prayers and continuing support. Great things are happening at Camp Chestermere. There are some cool new initiatives that are starting this week that I can't wait to tell you about in the next weekly update. We are trying to do things a little different here at camp but through it all we do not want to lose our number one value of building relationships with everyone who interacts with Camp Chestermere. Blessings and again we are praying for those who were negatively affected by the storm.