After nearly a half-decade of going to camp, 17-year-old Brett May is ready to give back.

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This article was published 14/7/2018 (1027 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

After nearly a half-decade of going to camp, 17-year-old Brett May is ready to give back.

He’s going to Camp Arnes in the last week of July, where he will act as a crew leader — what he describes as a step below a camp leader or counsellor.

Brett will be helping the younger children get their bearings; some of them may be at camp for the first time. He says he thinks being a leader will be easy — straightforward. He has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, which he says helps him be in tune with people’s emotions.

Besides, he says it’s good for him to give back — he wouldn’t have been able to go to camp if not for the Sunshine Fund.

Brett’s mother, Candace Mitchler, is currently on disability for a torn shoulder. She’s a single mother of two (Brett and 11-year-old Shyan). They’re a low-income family, and without the Sunshine Fund, she wouldn’t have been able to afford to send either child to camp — an experience she says is important.

"We’re on such a tight budget, the Sunshine Fund is like an open door to so many opportunities," Mitchler says.

Opportunities such as learning archery, paintball, or swimming in a lake. When Brett first learned how to shoot an air rifle, the camp counsellors first gave him a lighter version than the other children, letting him practise with something easier before he moved on to the larger rifle.

Brett even learned how to canoe and portage through the rough terrain of northwestern Ontario.

"That’s the best part. He says, ‘I’ve portaged a canoe on my neck.’ It was all so new," Mitchler says. "I’ve never gone to Ontario, but to get to this other island, they had to work as a team to get there — it’s just, without the Sunshine Fund, he wouldn’t be learning that."

One skill Brett is particularly proud of is his ability to start a fire with just metal, a pencil lead and a battery.

If people can donate to the Sunshine Fund, Mitchler suggests they do.

"The kids will thank you," she says.

Brett, who was still wearing a cast this week after breaking his arm at school, is excited to get his cast off and go to camp at the end of July.

He’s made lasting friendships at camp over the years, including three people he still corresponds with after first meeting at Pioneer Camp four years ago. Perhaps this year, he’ll make even more lifelong friends.

Erik Pindera
Multimedia producer

Erik Pindera is a multimedia producer at the Winnipeg Free Press.

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