John Gomes’ Moorelands Story

John is the winner of our Moorelands Camp Story Contest! Check out his competition winning submission below. Thank you to everyone who entered, there was stiff competition!

John's Story

John Gomes

My Moorelands Camp story begins when I was 13. Before coming to Moorelands, I had only been to one camp before – an underwhelming three-day school trip – that left a bad taste in my mouth. I had been struggling with low confidence and poor social skills, and it was affecting school. A close friend of mine had previously attended the camp, and recommended it to my mother, as the subsidies help lower-income families such as ours to pay for the cost of going to camp. I had no expectations coming in, and I must say that, even if I did, they would have been blown away.

The moment I entered the bus after stowing my luggage, I was met with smiling faces all around. I immediately became friends with the two people that I was sitting next two, and we talked for the entire bus ride, two hours in all, that I had barely even noticed pass. When we were nearly at camp, the counsellors stood up and began teaching us the camp’s cheers. While I was nervous, as many of the other boys on the bus had been there before and knew the cheers, I quickly caught on and was yelling along with the rest of the bus in minutes. The counselors were patient, and brought a positive and energetic vibe with them, with everything they did. Over the course of the week, I met some of the best people I’ve ever met in my life, many of which I still know today. Camp gave me an opportunity to let all of my energy out, to be as loud as I wanted to be, as energetic and rowdy as I wanted to be. I was an equal in this group of over ten other people. My opinion was valued, I was listened to. When I arrived home, I was constantly talking to everyone I knew about my experiences at camp. I would talk for hours and hours without even realizing, something completely unheard of for me. The experiences I had at camp opened up this new side of me, a socially active, self-advocating me that I never knew before.

All from a single week at camp.

Now, I’m fifteen.

When ACE came around the year later, I was happy to see that one of my cabin mates from the year before had joined me, as well as three new faces. This time, camp was slower. I got time to get to know my cabin mates extremely well. I got to witness what goes on behind the scenes while campers are doing their activities, getting to know the counselors and helping organize camp-wide events and even taking part in one of them. Me and my cabin mates were put through many extremely difficult trust and team building exercises, which we flourished in.

John in costume at camp

By the time our canoe trip came around, me and my other four cabin mates had developed a bond that could not be broken. The experiences we’d shared still come back to memory to this day, nearly a year after. During our canoe trip, we were given advice and asked questions which changed my outlook on life entirely. We were told to look back on our lives and evaluate ourselves, and I took a lot in from the lessons we were given that I use every day. We were shown how to be better people, to show true respect. All in the span of two days. By the time our canoe trip was over, I had made four friends and a million memories to last a lifetime.

That is my Moorelands story. Camp truly transformed me for the better, and taught me lessons I wish I had learned ten years ago.

By John Gomes, Moorelands camper

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