Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Camp Manitou catches big break

True North pitching in to rescue facility for kids

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The charity behind True North and the Winnipeg Jets has come to the rescue of a well-known summer camp for underprivileged kids in Headingley.

Camp Manitou board president Garry Hirsch and Dwayne Green, executive director for the Winnipeg Jets True North Foundation, confirmed Thursday they've signed a lease partnership for the summer camp.

It's good news for the summer day camp that's been around since 1930 but has always struggled to raise funds.

"It's a win-win for the camp. It's a win-win for True North and it's definitely a win-win for the kids," said Hirsch, a real estate agent who was instrumental in finalizing details for the lease.

Hirsch confirmed the deal just ahead of a formal announcement as the best way to defend it from unfounded rumours.

Hirsch said he has been fielding speculation True North, or possibly Mark Chipman, had snapped up the camp as part of a real estate deal to develop the property for high-end condos or luxury homes.

Chipman is the chairman of the board for True North, which owns the Winnipeg Jets.

"That was never the case," Hirsch said. "It's a lease. They're going to be making a substantial investment in the camp and they have the resources to do it. It's a good thing. There was never any intention of True North or Mark Chipman to use the land for development... I'm just proud to be working with them."

The camp will not only remain a day camp for underprivileged kids, it's likely to undergo improvements the non-profit charity could never hope to accomplish, Hirsch said.

Green, the head of the charity for the NHL Jets and True North, said the foundation issued a formal statment late Thursday to make the lease agreement public.

It stated the foundation will take over the camp's operations as of Jan. 2, 2014.

"We've signed a long-term lease to run the programming and operations of the camp but there is capital in it as well to improve the youth programs," Green said.

Additional programs are expected to launch next summer.

The foundation will start a search for a camp director in the coming weeks.

True North is also exploring partnership opportunities with the Burton Cummings Theatre for the Performing Arts and the Pantages Playhouse Theatre.

The Camp Manitou deal will take the form of a long-term lease arrangement that could last 20 to 25 years.

Hirsch said with the demographic reality of today's service clubs, the traditional sources of fundraising for the camp are drying up. Six Winnipeg service clubs -- the Kiwanis, Rotary, Kinsmen, Cosmopolitan, Optimist and YMCA -- founded the camp in 1930.

True North is developing a well-deserved reputation for a mentorship program it runs with youths at risk, Hirsch said. That expertise will likely mean enriched programming for Camp Manitou and possibly better access to funding, he said.

Anywhere from 2,500 to 4,000 kids attend Camp Manitou every summer.

alexandra.paul@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 20, 2013 A6

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