In 2004, Linwood residents Ron and Cindy Weber took a chance and bought 200 acres of property in the Muskoka area. Their dream was to create a place for kids to visit, get back to nature, learn from each other and have some fun – goals which they have now achieved with their Christian faith-based charitable organization, Crane Lake Discovery Camp, which has just started its busiest season yet.
The camp offers two-week sessions for boys between the ages of 12 and 17. Each of the three available sessions focuses on a different theme, but all end the same way: with a three-day canoe trip on Crane Lake.
“Ultimately, we believe that kids experience God through nature,” said Ron Weber. “When you bring a kid from a city or an urban environment into the wilderness and really expose them to the outdoors, the change in them is amazing.”
This year, the camp has seen higher registration numbers than in any previous year, their lot is bustling and they have almost reached capacity.
“We have kids come from all walks of life – kids from upper class families who typically have things handed to them, to kids who have lost a parent and need to work through some of their issues, to refugees who are new to Canada; this is a camp for kids who need camp.”
Ron worked as a builder for a number of years and then spent some time working at a kids’ camp in the U.S. before deciding that his passion was for the outdoors and for what the camp experience could provide for kids from very diverse backgrounds.
“After a number of years of working at camp I began to realize that it was group work which allowed them to grow and develop their social skills. They aren’t going to have everything handed to them here. Group work teaches the kids to depend on each other and trust each other.”
The DIY-style camp allows campers the chance to learn to work together to construct living quarters, prepare meals, out-trip, portage, and catch fish.
When Weber first began working at camp, he would see kids arrive and then depart swiftly for home when they experienced a bout of homesickness, but he says it’s not quite so straightforward at Crane Lake.
“We had a kid once who had some behavior issues and didn’t want to participate,” he explained. “He thought we were going to send him home if he acted up but we worked with him and got through his fits. We stuck with him. We are not going to send someone home – we work through things together, as a group.”
Registration for the first two sessions of camp are now closed, but a few spots remain for the third session. The final session of camp, entitled ‘Discovering the World of Nature’ runs from August 3-15 and will give campers the opportunity to study the plant and wildlife native to the Muskoka area. Every day, kids will get the opportunity to spot deer, moose, and other animals that roam the woods surrounding Crane Lake. They can also take part in a construction project using materials from the woods or go fishing, swimming, and canoeing.
To make sure they are inclusive to many different kids, bursaries are available for families who require financial assistance and the organization’s application and interview process helps to ensure each session is filled with campers who could benefit from two weeks where their needs and issues are given priority attention.
“I want kids to be able to come up here and just have fun in the outdoors,” said Weber. “This camp is the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”