Stetson Klassen is packing something extra to take to camp this summer: his two younger sisters, Nora and Alyvia.

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This article was published 22/6/2019 (684 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Stetson Klassen is packing something extra to take to camp this summer: his two younger sisters, Nora and Alyvia.

They’re going during different weeks, but their mom, Mathilde Klassen, said her 11-year-old son is excited to show his nine- and six-year-old sisters the ropes before they head to Roseau River Bible Camp, where Stetson spent a week last summer.

SUPPLIED</p><p>Matthew and Mathilde Klassen are grateful they can send Nora (clockwise from middle left), Stetson and Alyvia to camp. This year, the girls are joining Stetson. And one day, it will be time for Asher to follow in their footsteps.</p></p>

SUPPLIED

Matthew and Mathilde Klassen are grateful they can send Nora (clockwise from middle left), Stetson and Alyvia to camp. This year, the girls are joining Stetson. And one day, it will be time for Asher to follow in their footsteps.

"I think he’s excited for them to be able to go out and learn the things that he learned," Klassen said.

"(He’s) walking them through the day, how every time you go swimming, you have to have a shower afterward," she said with a laugh. "(They’ve heard) nothing but good things from him."

Klassen said her brother’s kids have been going to the camp for years, and Stetson couldn’t wait to join his cousin there for the first time last summer.

"He loved it," she said. "He had a blast, and by the end of the week, he was still pumped. He wasn’t ready to go home yet."

When Stetson came home from camp last summer, he couldn’t stop talking about the activities he got to try, including horsemanship and riflery, Klassen said. But it was the swimming he really loved.

"Being in the water is like home to him," she said. "We live in the Prairies, (and) we’re nowhere near a lake. But when it comes to a swimming pool, that is the best thing — I guess because it is something we don’t have close to home."

Klassen said her son got more from camp than just a chance to jump in the pool, though — the experience helped him grow.

"I think it has helped him be more independent," Klassen said. "So he could just say ‘I did this.’ It was good for him that way."

She said Stetson also made lots of new friends at camp — and it wouldn’t have been possible without the Winnipeg Free Press Sunshine Fund, which provides financial assistance to families who can’t afford to send their kids to camp.

"Without the Sunshine Fund, they would not all be going to camp," Klassen said. "Especially when you’re sending multiple children, it sure adds up quickly."

The program, in partnership with the Manitoba Camping Association, uses the Statistics Canada low-income cut-off chart to determine if an applicant family qualifies for financial assistance and provides up to $700 per child, per year. Applications are reviewed on a first-come, first-served basis, and the number of children who get to go to camp through the fund is dependent on donations and grants.

So far, the fund has raised enough money to send 452 kids to camp — still shy of this year’s goal of 650.

Klassen said camp last summer was a great experience for her son.

"He was excited. He just couldn’t wait to dive right in, meet new people and start his adventure," she said.

Now, her daughters will get the chance to have the same experience.

"They’re a little bit nervous," Klassen said. "(But) very excited to go and just make new friends."

caitlyn.gowriluk@freepress.mb.ca