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Wednesday
Apr262017

The Camp Glow by Sheri Vanslack

Sending our children to camp was never a question, it was a priority.

In a world of “helicopter parenting”, we wanted to give our children a safe opportunity to explore the world of independence, to make decisions without our constant coaching and to experience what camp is all about.

My most cherished childhood memories come from my summers spent at CQE, both as a camper and later, as a counsellor. The lifelong friendships I formed, my love of the water and my endless appreciation for nature, all of which remain an important aspect of my life today.

And now, I am able to share that same appreciation of camp with all three of my children.

Being on an island, absent from streetlights, traffic and commercial buildings, there are no distractions at CQE. My children are able to unplug from technology and instead, spend their time developing meaningful friendships, trying new things and developing skills in activities like canoeing, sailing, swimming and hiking. They are completely immersed in nature and can learn all about the environment and soak in its beauty.

They've learned the camp language, rituals, secrets and bonds. My children have not only become closer to one another because of their camp experience, but there's also a strong sense of belonging within the CQE family.

At the end of the summer, each one of my kids returned home with a complete glow: independence, mixed with happiness and confidence. Camp has a magical way of allowing kids to be who they are. At CQE, our children learned to be themselves, develop their own unique set of leadership skills and created memories that'll last forever.

Tuesday
Apr252017

When I go back next year... by Amy McGregor

Robbie first attended CQE so he could be a ‘normal kid’.

As the oldest of three, and a big brother to two autistic younger brothers, Aidan and Chase, Robbie has given up a lot in order to make sure his brothers are happy.  For a couple of weeks a year, we wanted Robbie to not have to worry about his siblings.

Due to sensory overload, simple activities like going to the movies or playing at the park can easily turn into a fearful situation for Aidan and Chase, but Robbie always help outs to make sure they are safe and happy. He holds his brothers’ hands in parking lots, walks Aidan to school and tries to make sure they are as comfortable as possible.

Robbie is only 10, but he has the weight of a much older child on his shoulders.

That's why Robbie's opportunity to go to camp is so meaningful to us, because of all that he does for his little brothers.

When we dropped Robbie off at the CQE bus, it was a bittersweet moment for our family. We knew he would have a blast, but we would miss him immensely while he was gone.

Two weeks later, when the whole family went to pick him up, Robbie got off the bus with a huge smile spread across his face.

When registration opened, I asked Robbie if he'd like to go to CQE again next summer. He said he would love to, but was really worried about his little brothers while he was gone. This completely melted my heart and made me want him to go again, all for the same reason. So he could be a ‘normal kid’ for two weeks of the year.

The second summer when he got off the bus, the first words out of his mouth were “When I go back next year!”. Robbie loves and talks about CQE so often that Chase now wants to experience this magical place! This will be Robbie’s third summer at CQE and Chase will attend the Little Dippers program for the first time.  

Because of CQE and Strong Kids funding, Robbie has been able to make new friends, develop independence, and create lifelong memories. Thank you CQE for giving Robbie more confidence and joy then I could have ever imagined.

Monday
Apr102017

Our family's summer tradition by Evelyne Dufau

Our family's connection to CQE started simply, with a desire to immerse our 10-year-old son in new experiences, away from the comfort of city life. Our children hadn't been to camp before and we didn't know much about CQE but the YMCA core values really spoke to us and the beauty of Georgian Bay was calling.

And now, more than 8 years later, CQE holds a special spot for our entire family.

Our son has grown from a little boy who gets homesick and dislikes canoeing to a confident young man who has returned every summer, joined the counsellor team last year and loves leading canoe trips.

Perhaps not surprisingly, our daughter has followed a similar path, after initial skepticism. After her first trip to Beausoleil Island with her school, she immediately began anticipating her next trip to camp. Leadership training with CQE has been the highlight of her summer. And she has brought her love of nature and leadership home, starting an outdoor leadership club at her high school.

With CQE's opportunities to learn responsibility and independence while tackling new activities in a supportive, safe and fun environment, both of our children have developed confidence, strong interpersonal skills and become natural leaders.

Their growth inspired me to take in a little bit of the CQE magic myself, by participating in their great yoga weekends. And of course, with all three of us extolling the virtues of the camp, we’ve convinced family and friends from as far away as France to send their children to Beausoleil Island. Each and every time, they've reported a transformative experience.

When we reflect today on our connection to camp, we see a strong love for nature and simple living coupled with confidence and responsibility, and we are certain our experiences at CQE have been at the heart of this personal growth.

Thank you, CQE!

Friday
Apr072017

We'd love to have him by Rebecca Shearer

For so many years my heart broke as a parent of a child with Special Needs.

It broke because Max's main goal in life was simple, it was pure, it was to have a friend. Every person he saw, he would ask, "Are you my friend?" Because of this lack of connection, Max had never had a typical birthday party, he'd never had a sleepover, he'd never FaceTimed a friend.

After a very trying year that destroyed our family and ended with Max spending time in residential care at CPRI (Child and Parent Resource Institute), we saw a light at the end of the tunnel. Max was coming home and he was happy. I knew I needed to continue Max's new found path towards independence and happiness.

That's where summer camp came in.

I convinced myself to let go of the reins and allow someone else to watch over my child. Yes, this is hard to do with a "typical" child, but it's nearly impossible with a child who shapes every minute of every day.

I began searching for a summer camp that offered one-on-one services. Max needed structure and someone who could think on their feet. But what he really needed, still, was a friend.

After 14 calls to camps around the region, what seemed like thousands of emails and a lot of declines, Camp Queen Elizabeth said, "We'd love to have him."

I cried. Someone had finally said yes, they would help and be happy to do it.

When Max got his first FaceTime request from his "friend", Ben, who was at camp waiting for him to arrive, he was thrilled. He was so happy to see and talk to someone who was waiting to be his friend. He went to bed smiling and I went to bed crying, with joy.

Max went to CQE for the very first time last August. He left on the bus without looking back and I spent the entire week uninterrupted with my youngest daughter. Did I think about Max? Oh course! Did we survive the week without him? Yes. And the first thing Max said to me when he got home from camp was, "Can I go again next year?"

CQE allowed my young boy to make friends on his own without his Mom watching over him. CQE protected, guided and encouraged my boy to be the best he could be.

But their support went beyond Max, extending to our whole family. It gave me peace of mind, allowing me to pay some much-needed attention to my little girl and my husband. In that one week, I slept well, breathed deeper, closed my eyes and was truly grateful.

We can't wait till this year!

Wednesday
Apr052017

A Magical Place by Patti Baker

I kept hearing about a magical place called CQE.

I had always wanted my kids to have the opportunity to go to camp, make new friends and try new activities. I wanted them to go on out-trips, sleep in a tent and to grow, smile and have the best time ever.

Camp Queen Elizabeth, or CQE as it's called, was the camp for us.

Emma, my daughter, was first to go to CQE five years ago. She absolutely fell in love with this camp the minute she was warmly greeted by the CQE counsellors at the bus stop. I however, was the parent wearing sunglasses to hide my tears as Emma boarded the bus to take on this new adventure.

But those tears of mine quickly turned to sheer joy as I followed along with Emma’s adventure on the CQE Facebook page and I saw how happy, safe and busy she was at camp. There were tons of photos of kids canoeing, swimming and sailing. They were playing games like capture the flag, doing crafts, creating drama skits, and there were always tons of smiling faces. It was truly an enchanting array of activities and display of joy.

After Emma returned home, it was then my son, Mackenzie, who would experience CQE for the very first time. Emma eagerly explained everything he needed to know, even helping him pack his bags. Emma couldn’t wait for Mackenzie to experience all the fun she had at camp.

Emma and I stood at the bus stop together and waved goodbye to Mackenzie, both knowing he would love it and Emma of course, secretly wishing to be going too! It is safe to say Mackenzie LOVED every minute.

Because of all these things, and so much more, CQE has helped shape who my children are today.

Friendships were formed, independence was discovered and self-confidence was encouraged and celebrated. They learned problem solving skills on out-trips, incredible lifelong skills, and both now have an exceptional appreciation for the outdoors.

Both my kids have grown up at this wonderful place called CQE, each in their own way, but both equally delighted and thankful about the opportunity they have been given. For that, I am grateful for this magical place called CQE.

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