Campers run across the grounds behind Camp Manitou, while a trio of elders from a Manitoba reserve speak softly together while sitting on a couch in the dining hall. Staff scurry about setting tables for the campers’ lunch.
Camp director Kelly Giddings checks with her 15 staff members to make sure everything is running properly. This is her first year as director, having moved from Ottawa to a house on the camp’s grounds four months ago.
Having Giddings at the helm isn’t the only change for the 84-year-old camp originally started by six service clubs. As of Jan. 2, the Winnipeg Jets True North Foundation began leasing the camp.
Foundation executive director Dwayne Green said the goal is to use the resources necessary to offer year-round programming for at-risk youth from Winnipeg and across Manitoba.
"We’re reintroducing Camp Manitou," he said.
"We’ve been using the tagline, ‘Rediscover Camp Manitou,’" Giddings added.
She said the foundation’s vision is to provide an opportunity for youth to develop skills, especially those who rarely have the chance to leave their urban neighbourhood or isolated communities.
On July 16, the camp hosted a group of youth and elders from a reserve who were staying in the camp’s dorms and a church-affiliated day camp group. Giddings said while Camp Manitou staff worked with the Aboriginal campers during the day, the accompanying elders took over with traditional teaching in the evenings.
The camp usually hosts between 70 and 150 campers each day, and most days are booked up throughout the summer.
As well, the camp rents out its buildings for special events such as weddings and family reunions. Giddings said catering is available through Centerplate Food Services, the company that provides food and beverage service at the MTS Centre.
The 28-acre site offers a variety of activities including swimming, cycling and outdoor sports for the summer campers. Giddings said she hopes to increase the camp’s wintertime use by offering cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, outdoor winter camping and shelter building. Construction of a climbing wall is being discussed, and it could double as an ice wall in the winter.
"We want this to become a premiere outdoor recreational facility," she said.
New cabins that will offer more privacy than the current dorms are also in the planning stage.
Giddings said there’s lots of room for more development while still maintaining the site’s natural beauty and resources.
"We want to keep that rustic camp experience," she said.