All children can benefit from singing songs around a bonfire, taking a nature walk and challenging themselves by learning new skills like canoeing.
That belief is what’s kept Camp Manitou going for the past 77 years, with more than 50,000 children and youth visiting during that time.
Executive director Michelle Harrison said more than 4,000 young people from across the province attended last year, through the auspices of 42 organizations.
"It’s such a unique organization," said Harrison, who joined the staff two years ago.
Originally founded by six service clubs, the camp operates as a non-profit organization.
Harrison said its purpose is to provide at-risk youth with the chance to experience camping, as most are unlikely to be able to attend any other summer camp.
Nestled along the treed bank of the Assiniboine River, just inside the RM of Headingley, the camp’s tranquil setting includes a pool, an area for games, a large dining hall, and residence areas.
Program director Kelsey MacKay, who has worked at the camp for six years, said the activities offered have changed over the years to meet young people’s interests. Campers can try zip lining, swimming, archery, orienteering, canoeing, and mountain biking, as well as play a variety of indoor and outdoor games, dance and do arts and crafts.
The camp works with many social agencies for children and youth. "We’re the support for their summer programs," Harrison said. "Their kids wouldn’t be able to get to camp otherwise."
The camp board and staff work to raise some of the money needed so these groups can use the camp. Harrison is hoping that the upcoming Color Me Rad Winnipeg event on July 20 and 21 will raise money, along with public awareness, for the camp.
It’s a fun event with runners covering five kilometres at Red River Exhibition Park while being bombarded with bursts of colour.
"The July 20th event is sold out," said Harrison, adding that young people have used social media to promote it.
For the older crowd, volunteer organizers are also planning an event called Paint the Night at the Winnipeg Convention Centre on October 24.
Outside groups are able to rent the camp’s facilities on a year-round basis.
Harrison said she believes Camp Manitou is unique in the way it works to broaden the lives of young people, and hopes potential donors are aware of this.