5 Star Camps - Ottawa Summer Day Camp located in Carp Blog - 5 Star Camps: Ottawa Summer Camp

5 Star Camps

Variety - Excellent - Nurturance - Trust - Adventure

The Benefits of Arts & Crafts

Along with our outdoor adventure and sports programs, every day, campers get a chance to relax and take part in arts and crafts.  We believe that arts and crafts is an integral part to our camp experience, and includes many development benefits for children!

2015 Totem Pole created by our campers!
2015 Totem Pole created by our campers!

Participating in craft making forces children to get comfortable using both hands, improving both bilateral coordination and fine motor skills.  These are the same skills that young children require when learning how to write, type, tie their shoes, and get dressed.

Arts and crafts can be a slow process, which means that campers have to work on self regulating themselves.  Whether they are waiting for glue to dry, beads to melt, and simply more materials, patience is key!

As our campers get older, the crafts become more intricate.  Campers who have been with us for many years will see their skills improve, just like they do at archery or on the ropes course.  Seeing their own skills grow every year can become a great self-esteem boost for young campers.  Those who like to challenge themselves artistically can join our Fine Arts Camp between the ages of 11 and 12.

Want to see what our campers have created over the years?  Check out some pictures on Pinterest!

Meet Our Staff – Part 3

Welcome to Part 3 of our staff profiles!  Today, we’ll be highlighting some of our male Counsellors.  Hope you enjoy the read!


AndrewKwaiAndrew Kwai “Mocha” has been at 5 Star Camps since our first summer back in 2007. His love for summer camps began while working the evening program at Camp Venta at the age of 15. He has a special connection to our wonderful property, where he has been a student, staff, and has even helped to refurbish our famous Fort.

Since starting with 5 Star, he has worked with campers from almost every age group, and leads the development of our leadership program, helping to grow the skills of our young, up-and-coming staff.  He is First Aid/CPR, AED, Epipen trained.  Mocha also has Site Specific Certification on our Low Ropes Course and Climbing Wall.

Andrew graduated from Venta in 2006, later moving on to Carleton University for a Bachelor’s of Science, and then the University of Ottawa, where he completed his Bachelor’s of Education. He currently teaches Grade 7 and 8 mathematics and science at Venta Prep School.


28767-31350-2619Zachary MacNeill “Big Mac”  was a student at Venta Preparatory School and has known Papa Bear and Neats for over 15 years. He was a boarder at Venta and lived on the property for 5 years where he developed very strong ties to the school community. He was always a fantastic team player and loved the outdoors.  Zachary played a huge role in the building of our incredible fort and continues to be very involved in the shaping of the Venta/5 Star Camps property.

Zachary has a great deal of experience working in the cooking industry.  He has however decided to return to his roots at Venta Preparatory School as a full time employee and also lives on the property with his newly wed wife, Sarah.

He began to work at 5 Star Camps in 2008 running the Low Ropes and Climbing wall program with Mary Reilly (aka MiMi).  Big Mac has the natural gift of risk management and is able to relate to children of all ages, his desire to give the children at camp the positive outdoor experiences he was so lucky to have at Venta makes his job incredibly rewarding.  He is an avid climber and loves the outdoors. He is First Aid/CPR, AED, Epipen trained.  Big Mac also has Site Specific Certification on our Low Ropes Course and Climbing Wall.

Big Mac is incredibly excited to take on the responsibility of leading our new Outdoor Leadership Camp this summer and is a natural fit for this program. He enjoys the outdoors, any sport, and listening to tunes. He also does not agree with Chicken about hockey whatsoever. Go Sens Go!

Hoping to see many returning and new faces at camp this year!


Alex Budd “Hawk Eye” is entering his 6th year of working at 5 Star Camps. In his opinion, each year of camp gets better and better, and he is sure all our campers agree. Hawk Eye is in his 4th year at Humber College in Toronto, and loves camp so much he manages to make his way back to Carp every summer!

Having been a camper as a kid, Hawk knows how campers can feel anxious and excited on their first day of camp. Hawk Eye does his best to make sure each camper feels welcome on their first day. He is dedicated to making every camper’s experience at camp unforgettable!

Alex has a severe allergy to peanuts and tree nuts, so he understands how scary it can be being a camper with allergies. Hawk Eye makes sure every camper feels safe and comfortable during snack and lunchtime. Alex makes sure each camper in his group that has an allergy or special diet is introduced to “Chicken”, who always has a meal for them, specific to their diet.

Alex is certified in First Aid/CPR, AED, Epipen training as well as being site certified on the ropes course and the climbing wall. He has worked with the Crazy Comets and has experience running the archery station. Hawk can also sometimes be found filling in for Shades to play the music for camp dances. Hawk Eye looks forward to yet another exciting year at 5 Star Camps!


Meet Our Staff – Part 2

Welcome back Campers and Parents!  Take a look below to read up on this week’s staff profiles: Jazz, Peanut, and Oreo.


Brittany Rich “Jazz” has been with 5 Star Camps for nine years and has never hesitated when it was time to prepare for another summer with the Little Dippers (5-6 year olds). She has a special ability to make connections with our youngest campers and makes them feel right at home on our campgrounds. Her love for 5 Star and for the campers is the reason she returns each year.

Brittany is completing her Bachelors of Physical and Health Education in June 2016 at Nipissing University. She has become an advocate for daily physical activity and leading a healthy lifestyle. Therefore, she recognizes the importance of inclusive environments and physical activity in developing healthy children. Brittany always leads by example by actively participating in the activities, as you’ll always find her swimming in the pool, racing down the water slide, and dancing like nobody’s watching. Thereby, encouraging children to be active and creative in a learning environment. Upon completion of her BPHE, Brittany plans on continuing her education at Nipissing University in the Bachelors of Education program where she can further develop her teaching philosophy and continue to be involved with youth on a daily basis.

If you see little campers tip-toeing pretending to be invisible with 5-Star’s special dust or walking around with binoculars searching for treasure, Brittany will definitely be there! Whether she is telling stories about living on a pirate ship or playing a fast game of “Red Light, Green Light”, she believes with all her heart that these connections and special moments in a child’s life are where memories are made. Every year, she counts down the days until she is amongst her new campers and welcoming them to the 5 Star family.


Angela Hopper “Peanut” has been very interested in working with children of all ages. “5 Star is a wonderful and welcoming environment for all children which is exactly the type of place I have always wanted to work”. Angela believes that a comfortable and encouraging camp environment is the best place for children to learn and grow as individuals.

Angela has been working at 5 Star Camps for 9 years, and has watched the program develop into what it is today. She has a vast background and extensive knowledge in dance and has been dancing on her own and with teams, since she was a very young child across numerous genres.

You can find Peanut with the Shooting Stars! She has been running the Dance Camp for several years now along with Oreo (Meg). She is always amazed at the creativity and talent of the 9/10 year old campers, their enthusiasm and excitement. She is always keenly aware of the fact that not everyone arrives at camp with the same dancing skills, but most importantly she knows that Dance camp is more focused on the love of music and movement and the bonding of friendships, which is what camp is all about!   Peanut also assists MiMi (Mary) for 2 weeks during the summer in the Music Camp.

Angela has been heavily involved in all forms of art since she was quite young including Music and Fine Arts. She graduated from Venta Preparatory School in 2010 and received the coveted Andrew Tanchuk Music award at Venta for her skills on the flute. Angela is currently enrolled at St. Francis Xavier University working towards a Bachelor of Arts with a Major in Music and a Minor in Fine Arts, going into her final year.

Angela is certified in First Aid/CPR, AED, Epipen training, she is also site certified on the Ropes Course and Climbing wall. She is fully dedicated to 5 Star Camp’s amazing program and cannot wait to see what this summer has to offer!”


Meaghan Oliver “Oreo” began working at 5 Star in 2013 and has since fell in love with the positive and energetic atmosphere that the camp provides. She is First Aid/CPR, AED and Epipen Trained. Meaghan works with Peanut with the Shooting Stars dance camp and takes great joy in watching kids learn to fall in love with dance as much as she does.

Currently in her third year at the University of Ottawa completing a specialization in English, Meaghan hopes to afterwards attend teachers college with the goal of becoming an elementary school teacher. Meaghan has been dancing since the age of 7 having studied ballet, jazz, tap, musical theatre, and lyrical under the RAD and ADAPT syllabi. She has been teaching dance since the age of 15 and has taught at 4 different studios in the Ottawa area, as well as volunteering her time to teach dance at multiple elementary schools. Her students have successfully completed several dance examinations and taken part in both regional and national competitions winning many awards. Meaghan loves to see her students succeed in dance but more importantly to her is watching a child learn to appreciate the art of dance and the various ways in which it can bring a smile to both a dancer and the audience’s face. Being able to participate in making a child’s summer a memorable one is Meaghan’s main goal working at 5 Star and she is excited to experience future memories with the campers and staff at camp!


To see more of our staff, check out: http://www.5starcamps.ca/our-staff/

Make sure to check us out on Pinterest for more pictures of our staff and camp!

Meet Our Staff – Part 1

Welcome Campers and Parents! Thanks for checking out our blog, and for taking this opportunity to get to know some of our staff.  This week, we’ll be profiling Bananie, Small Fry, and Honey Bee.  Enjoy!


Chrysane Ngo “Bananie” enjoys working with children of all ages. Inspired by their curiousity and imagination, she decided to formally pursue a career in education during her senior year of high school. Since then, her experiences interacting with children in a variety of settings have enabled her to develop a teaching philosophy which centres on fostering an inclusive environment that supports personal, intellectual, and social development.

At the reception tent, Chrysane warmly welcomes campers and their parents to 5 Star. She will be there to greet you with a cheerful, “Good morning!” or say a friendly, “Don’t forget about crazy hat day! See you tomorrow!” at the end of the day. Her ability to communicate clearly and effectively with both children and adults ensures that the children are excited to be at camp and that the parents feel at ease! As she leads her group of campers to each station, her energy and enthusiasm never wavers. Chrysane’s priority is ensuring that the children entrusted in her care are learning and having fun in a safe space.  She is First Aid/CPR, AED, Epipen trained.  Bananie also has Site Specific Certification on our Low Ropes Course and Climbing Wall.

Chrysane graduated with honours from the University of Ottawa, where she majored in English and minored in Psychology. She then received her Primary/Junior teaching certification upon completion of the Bachelor of Education Program at Queen’s University, where a highlight was completing a three week placement at an IB International School in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Chrysane currently teaches  JK and SK at Venta Preparatory School.

Small Fry

Dana Ciresianu “Small Fry” started working at 5 Star Camps her first summer after graduating from high school. It was that summer when she discovered her passion for working with children.   This newfound passion drove her to get her Bachelors of Education from University of Western Ontario in London, once she finished her Honors of Biology at University of Ottawa. It is safe to say that 5 Star Camps has forever changed her life. This upcoming summer will be Dana’s 7th year of working at 5 Star Camps and she can’t wait! The best time of the year, according to Small Fry, is camp time!

Small Fry has experience working with the Galactic Gang, the Supernovas and running the archery station. To ensure the safety of her campers, Small Fry is First Aid/CPR, AED,  and Epipen trained. She is also certified on the ropes course and Cliff the climbing wall.

Dana is currently a tutor at Venta Community Learning Center, where she works hard to find the best way to teach her students. Her passion for teaching is visible to her students and in turn drives them to want to learn more.

Honey Bee
Honey Bee

Lindsay Seguin “HoneyBee” started working with 5 Star Camps 6 years ago, and fell in love with the welcoming atmosphere and incredible environment. She has slowly moved her way through the variety of positions and now resides in the Arts and Crafts room where she is responsible for using her creativity to design crafts that will spark our campers’ interest. She always has new and exciting ideas to share with each and every group!

You can always find Lindsay and her welcoming smile at the reception tent ready to greet the campers and their parents when they sign in at the beginning of the day and sign out at the end! She is always there to lend a helping hand and answer any questions you may have!

Lindsay completed her schooling at Queen’s University, where she successfully completed the Concurrent Education program, receiving her Bachelor of Science Honours Degree in Psychology and her Bachelor of Education. Lindsay is able to teach at the primary, junior, and intermediate level and truly has a passion for working with children of all ages. She has extensive experience as a tutor, ranging from the primary to university level. She is an enthusiastic and compassionate individual helping each one of her students to not only learn, but to love learning.  She is First Aid/CPR, AED, Epipen trained.

Lindsay is currently working as an occasional teacher for the Limestone District School Board in Kingston, Ontario.

She truly is dedicated to making a difference in the life of each of our campers! She cannot wait to see what this year of campers has to offer!


To see more of our staff, check out: http://www.5starcamps.ca/our-staff/

Make sure to check us out on Pinterest for more pictures of our staff and camp!

Why We Do Archery

Ever since the first Hunger Games movie came out in 2012, children have been wanting to emulate Katniss Everdeen, and her skills with a bow and arrow. Aside from being able to show off your new skill to all your friends, several health benefits are also associated with archery.

CC at archery
Mighty Meteors at Archery with Bananie

Archery helps to improve hand-eye coordination by training parts of your body to work together while performing different tasks. The camper has to continually focus on the target, while allowing their arms and hands to get the bow in place, and ready to fire. This can lead to a better sense of balance, as well as a better understanding of one’s own body mechanics.

As our campers get older and become more experienced, they are challenged to use bigger and more powerful bows. This exercise works as strength building, similar to lifting weights. As they repeat the process of knocking an arrow, pulling the string back, and firing, the upper body muscles being used start to develop and get stronger.

Mocha LD
Mocha helping out a Little Dipper

Archery is a unique sport, in that there is no speed element to it, and campers are typically just competing against themselves. This facet allows campers to develop an increased sense of patience, focus, and confidence. Being able to tune out any distractions and concentrate on the target in front of you is a challenging experience. As campers practice more often, and start to see a progress in their skills, they quickly build self-confidence.

Many of our Counsellors as proficient in archery, and we work every day to ensure your campers have an exciting and rewarding camp experience.

To see more pictures of our archery program, check us out on Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/5starcamps/.

Have any questions about our programming? Don’t hesitate to contact us at registration@5starcamps.ca.

The Benefits of Low Ropes & Team Building

5 Star Camps is proud to be the owner of the largest low ropes challenge course in Eastern Ontario. Since we launched in 2007, this challenge course has been the centre of our program.

King's Fingers
Campers attempting to complete the King’s Fingers

This extensive course is comprised of personal and group problem solving challenges. At 5 Star Camps we believethat people learn and develop most effectively when presented with a challenge. Our adventure program is designed to challenge the individual and develop group dynamics. This professionally designed course fosters such skills as problem-solving, teamwork, communication and leadership. Individual growth occurs in areas of self-esteem, trust, social competence and risk-taking.

The 5 Star Camps course was designed and built by Challenges Unlimited Inc. (CUI), which is Canada’s premier experiential adventure learning and development consulting company. Challenges Unlimited provides yearly safety inspections as well as staff training and certification.  CUI has been a level 4 Professional Member of the Association for Challenge Course Technology since 1993. It is also a member of the Association for Experiential Education (A.E.E), the Ontario Camps Association (O.C.A.) and the Alberta Camping Association (A.C.A.).

Low ropes and challenge courses have a history that dates back as far as the ancient Greeks, for use as soldier training. Nowadays, they are common place for use as team building exercises for all people of all ages and backgrounds.

Little Dippers after completing The Beam
Little Dippers after completing The Swinging Beam

Our course serves many purposes, from quick ice-breakers, to independent challenges, to complex group activities. Participating on our ropes course allows campers to get to know each other in a much different environment, forcing them to entrust strangers, and work with one another to complete unique tasks.

Low ropes activities also function as a great workout. Many of our activities require the use of upper body strength to help manoeuvre through obstacles. Along with that comes a need for balance and control of your body. As campers get older, they are introduced to more challenging elements, allowing them to build upon their skills, and test their own personal limits.

To see more pictures of the Ropes Course, check us out on Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/5starcamps/.

Have any questions about our programming? Don’t hesitate to contact us at registration@5starcamps.ca.

Cliff the Climbing Wall

One of the newest additions to our camp in the past few years has been Cliff the Climbing Wall. While it serves as an additional station, and helps to add variety to our program, there are also many physical and emotional benefits as well. Check out what Challenges Unlimited has to say about the benefits of a climbing wall!

The Benefits of a Climbing Wall:

Climbing Wall
Climbing Wall

A climbing wall has so much to offer to a Recreational Program. Identified below are some of the key benefits and

outcomes of a professionally built wall/tower with intentional route setting, good equipment choices and pre-planned programming.

A Climbing Wall provides an opportunity for repeat experiences and skill development. There are numerous ‘opportunities’ to instruct participants about the sport of climbing and to create opportunities for skill development.‘Teachables’ include climbing technique, transferable skills (belay technique, mock lead climbing, rappelling), knots and equipment knowledge.

The outcomes of sport climbing will provide opportunities for increased physical strength; promote a better sense of body awareness and an improved sense of balance. It is a sport that is accessible to a wide range of individuals of all physical abilities as the wall and its climbing routes can be manipulated to provide an appropriate level of challenge with room for growth built in.

Climbing Wall
Climbing Wall

The benefits emotionally to a climber are that the sport and its challenges will develop an individual’s determination (determination to finish a project, make it to the top of the wall, etc.). It spurs on the desire to set goals that are attainable in a reasonable amount of time and the sport also creates an environment where individuals can coach and support each other.

A strong sense of community can be created around a climbing wall that will encourage more people to participate. People get excited for each other when someone finishes a project, cheer each other on during repeat efforts and offer support when an attempt doesn’t work. It’s an amazing example of how community can be built seamlessly into an adventure based program model.

Have any questions about our programming? Don’t hesitate to contact us at registration@5starcamps.ca.

Meet Our Owners

Hello Campers and Parents! Thanks for stopping by our website. At 5 Star Camps, we believe that it is vital to our program to get to know every camper on a personal level. As such, it is important that you get to know us as well! Read below, to know my wife Anita and I, a little better.

Papa Bear
Papa Bear

I have been fortunate enough to be in the education business for more than 30 years. I obtained a Bachelor of Science in Physical Education and Recreation Management with a minor in Psychology from Acadia University, and I currently serve as the Director of Operations and Dean of Students at Venta Preparatory School. Anita and I also work as Sound Therapy Tomatis Consultants for the school.

Anita and I met when I worked in St. John’s, Newfoundland, running a recreational program for disabled children. At the time, she was working for the City of St. John’s, Parks and Recreation Department.

Throughout our time at Venta, I have been involved in developing their summer camp program. I was also very involved throughout my career coaching soccer and baseball for many years in the local community. I have my level 1 and 2 coaching certification as well as extensive background in athletics including football, rugby, baseball, soccer, skiing and snowshoeing.  I also have my level 1 Ropes Course/Climbing Wall certification along with site specific certification on 5 Star’s own Ropes course and climbing wall. Both Anita and I are trained in First Aid, CPR, AED and are Epipen certified.


While Anita has worked in finance her entire adult life and has been the office manager in the finance department at Venta for 15 years, she has now changed her direction to work in a therapeutic setting at the school running the Tomatis Sound Therapy Listening Program.  Here she is actively helping children find ways to cope with the stresses and pressures of everyday academic life, along with helping to give the children the tools to tap into their own skills and abilities to reach success in every aspect of their lives.

Papa Bear & Neats

We reside in Carp, and absolutely love working with children! Our own two children, Justin (Shades) and Angela (Peanut), are away at University completing their degrees, and work as Counsellors for us during the summer.

We are ecstatic that we are celebrating our 10 year anniversary this summer, and hope to continue to develop the camp into an incredible outdoor experience giving children bonding memories to last a lifetime.


Sean (Papa Bear) and Anita (Neats) Hopper

Why 5 Star Camps

Did you read our last article written by the Ontario Camps Association?  Make sure to check it out by clicking here, and then check out our answers to their very important questions below!


What kind of program do I want for my camper?
5 Star Camps is Ottawa’s premiere summer day camp. We operate a 6-week daily program with the feel and closeness of an overnight camp.

What programs does the camp offer?

We offer several different programs in addition to our traditional sports adventure camp.  Check out our Fine Arts Camp (11/12 year olds), Music Camp (7/8 year olds), and Dance Camp (9/10 year olds).  New this year is our Outdoor Leadership Camp (11/12 year olds).

How do campers choose their programs at camp?
Campers (and their parents) chose their camp at registration time.  Each camp has a set schedule, but all campers get a chance to visit our pool, inflatables, archery, and our ropes course / climbing wall.  Check out the links above to see what a typical day at camp looks like!

Small Fry and Hawk Eye on Crazy Hair Day

What does the camp want campers to take away with them from their experience?
5 Star Camps operates under 5 key values: Variety, Excellence, Nurturance, Trust, Adventure.  We follow these 5 key values as we deliver our program to our campers.  At the end of the campers experience, we hope that they leave with a renewed sense of adventure and excitement.  We aim to build new skills, and enrich old ones as campers are immersed in a week of fun-filled activities.

What is the camp staff: camper ratio?
We operate at a minimum of 1 staff member for every 6 campers.  Every group has a at least two members of our senior staff who are supported by several junior staff to make sure your son or daughter has a fun and safe experience.

What safety measures does the camp take for high-risk programs?
We pride ourselves on safety!  All members of our senior staff are trained in first aid, CPR, AED, and epipens.  Our lifeguards are all NLS certified.  During high-risk programming (such as our famous Survival game), we increase staff supervision to ensure the safety and security of everyone involved.

What kind of health care facility and staff is available to campers?
We take extreme precautions during our registration process to make sure we are able to capture all health related information for every camper before they step onto our property.  If a camper becomes ill, under the approval of the parent/parents, after they have been contacted, we will administer over-the-counter medications as well as make beds available to the camper, until the parents arrive or they feel well enough to get back into the program.

How does the camp deal with issues like homesickness,
bullying and campers with additional needs?
We work to develop an environment where issues like bullying are minimized.  If necessary, we work closely with our parents to ensure the appropriate measures are taken to curb any inappropriate behaviour.

Our staff are trained on how to deal with issues such as homesickness, and they are the first point of contact for campers.  If a severe case of homesickness occurs, our Camp Director works closely with the parents to come to a solution.  We try our best to keep our campers onsite, and only send them home as a last resort.  We find that homesickness can pass quickly, and campers end up having so much fun that they are begging to come back the next day!

We work closely with the parents of campers who may have special needs.  Our Camp Director, along with members of our senior staff work hard to identify these campers, and come up with appropriate plans of action to best support these campers.

What training has been completed by the camp staff?
All of our staff participate in a mandatory 2-weekend orientation program. Prior to these weekends, all staff are required to read and be familiar with all our policies and procedures . They also complete pre-camp Online training courses monitored by the Directors and our Leadership coordinators. During the orientation weekends, we cover 5 Star’s philosophy, camp protocol and procedures, and include intensive clinics run by our senior staff on the different activities offered throughout the summer.  This ensures that all of our staff are on the same page and work as one cohesive unit throughout the summer.

5 Star Camps is also an accredited member of the Ontario Camps Association and has been so for 4 years, as a result, we follow all their strict requirements and guidelines. 5 Star Camps is also inspected regularly by OCA.

IMG_0183 (2)
Sean Hopper – Camp Director

What is the camp director’s background and what are his or her qualifications?
Our Camp Director (Sean Hopper) has over 30 years of experience working with children.  During the school year, he works as the Dean of Students and Director of Operations at Venta Preparatory School. He has his level 1 and level 2 coaching certifications along with his Low Ropes/ Climbing Wall certification.  To read more about Sean and his wife Anita, visit our Staff page.

What is the camp’s staff return rate?
Our staff are the backbone of our program!  They are just as (if not more!) excited as our campers to return to camp every year!  A lot of our staff have even been with us since our first camp back in 2007.  Almost all of our staff return year-to-year.

How are campers transported to camp?
Campers are transported to-and-from camp by their parents.  They can be dropped off any time between 7:30 and 9:00 in the morning, and picked up between 4:30 and 5:30 in the afternoon.  Once campers arrive on site, there is no need to worry about off-site visits, or busing between locations, as all of our programming happens on our beautiful 50-acre property!

Which camp session should I choose?
We offer several different types of camps to ensure that campers get the most out of their stay with us.

How much will camp cost?
All of our camps are $340 before taxes.  This includes all programming, as well as a hot lunch and two fruit snacks every day!  No need for campers to bring any money.

Any other questions?  Feel free to browse our website, or email us at registration@5starcamps.ca.

Choosing the Right Camp

Advice from the Ontario Camps Association on finding the right camp for your child

The number of campers who attend Ontario Camps Association camps has grown to 350,000. And there are over 700,000 parents and guardians for those campers. “We’re here to support them,” said Heather Heagle, executive director of the Ontario Camps Association. “We support the parents when they call in, as well as the campers.”

There are many more camp members of the growing association as well.

5 Star Staff 2015

“When I started six years ago, there were approximately 230 camps,” said Heagle. “We’re now at over 400 and counting. That means owners and operators of camps are recognizing the importance of belonging to an organization that provides guidelines and support for camps education.”

Their annual Ontario Camps Association educational conference attracts over 400 people. This year it was held Jan. 27-29 in Toronto.

“The topics ranged from business to child development, Aboriginal sensitivity training, and current hot topics,” Heagle said.

Since 1933, the OCA has played an important leadership role in promoting and encouraging children and youth camping in Ontario. The OCA is a voluntary, non-profit organization that draws its membership from camps, individuals and like-minded organizations and agencies, all devoted to maintaining high standards for organized camping, and to sharing information and ideas that maintain these standards.

Here’s some advice on choosing a summer camp from the Ontario Camps Association.

What kind of program do I want for my camper?

  1. A day camp program

Reasons for choosing a day camp program:

  • Your child is not ready to spend a lengthy time away from home
  • Your child has sleeping issues
  • Similar structure/routine to a school day or daycare
  • Usually closer to urban centres
  • Usually less expensive
  1. An overnight camp program

Reasons for choosing an overnight (“sleep-away”) camp program:

  • Campers have an opportunity to apply more life skills
  • Exposes campers to new environments, communities and ways of interacting
  • Often vast amounts of programming and waterfront experiences
  • The camper has an away from home experience
  • Parents get a longer re-charge period
Climbing Wall #1
5 Star Campers enjoying the climbing wall

What programs does the camp offer?

Are you looking for a traditional and varied camp program, or a camp where campers hone a particular set of skills/talents?

How do campers choose their programs at camp?

Asking for a description of a “typical day at camp will give you a good idea of the campers’ schedule. You can also use this information to prepare your child for his/her time at camp.

What does the camp want campers to take away with them from their experience?

The camp director’s answer to this question will reveal the overall values and philosophies of the camp.

What is the camp staff: camper ratio?

This ratio indicates the overall level of supervision. It is a good idea to also inquire about the number of campers under one counsellor’s care, as this may be a different ratio. According to OCA standards, counsellor: camper ratios should be no larger than 1:6 for children under five of 1:10 for children aged six and older.

What safety measures does the camp take for high-risk programs?

You should ask about the qualifications of the staff and the camp’s protocol for supervision and risk management (e.g. equipment inspections), and the rules set for campers (e.g. always swim with a buddy).

What kind of health care facility and staff is available to campers?

Health care should be of the utmost importance at any camp. You should have confidence that the camp is equipped (on-site) or has a strategy in place to ensure quick and competent emergency response and everyday wellness.

How does the camp deal with issues like homesickness,
bullying and campers with additional needs?

Many camps have written resources and policies in places concerning these issues. Staff should be trained in such areas as age-appropriate needs, behaviour management and methods of inclusion.

5 Star Staff preparing for camp during our orientation

What training has been completed by the camp staff?

All camps provide training on leadership, programs, child development, problem solving, confidentiality, reporting and camper safety. Find out the type of training and qualifications required by your camp by contacting the camp director.

What is the camp director’s background and what are his or her qualifications?

The camp director’s experience, education and character will determine her/his ability to run the camp safely, smoothly, and interact appropriately with staff and campers. The camp director is the person ultimately responsible for the care of your camper.

What is the camp’s staff return rate?

A high rate of staff returning to a camp indicates dedication to the camp and a high level of tradition. Happy staff makes for happy campers. High staff return may also point to sound training, including team building and professional development.

How are campers transported to camp?

Camps may have buses; others can connect you to cab companies that specialize in transporting children, or you may choose to drive your child to camp. If the camp offers transportation, it should provide detailed information about pickup and drop-off points, costs and the quality and amount of supervision. Choosing a camp just because it’s the closest camp to you isn’t always the best choice if you’re looking for camp staff with specialized programming or staff with specific training and experience.

Which camp session should I choose?

It is really up to each individual family and their schedule to determine which dates to select. It may be difficult to get your exact dates, so register early and he prepared to be flexible with your dates, especially if it’s a specific program you want.

How much will camp cost?

Camps will range from $0 (subsidy, scholarship) to $1,000-plus per week. Research your camps of choice online and call the camps for information and meetings before you register so that you can make an informed decision. Some camps charge additional fees for such things as one-on-one workers for campers with special needs, meals, transportation and other incidentals. If you are looking for financial assistance please ask if it is available.
It is often helpful to speak to campers and their parents to get their opinions of the camp you are considering. At your request, a camp director should be able to connect you with several current camp families. Children often have different questions to ask about camp. We encourage you and your child to ask the following questions of campers:

  1. Did you like camp?
  2. What were the counsellors like?
  3. What kinds of things did you do at camp?
  4. What were the other kids like?
  5. Where di you live?
  6. Did you like the food?
  7. Are you going back to camp this summer?

It is important to ask if you can visit the camp. Often seeing the camp, the living accommodations, the activity areas, and meeting some of the staff will give you and your camper a solid understanding of what to expect from a camp experience.
You can find out more on the OCA website at www.ontariocampsassociation.ca.
You can find the answer to all the questions above by visiting www.5starcamps.ca.