Geoff Morrison first came to Moorelands as a counsellor in 1986. Over the next four years he worked as senior staff at the camp, the first Adventure Program head, a senior section head and then as Program Director.
“Moorelands is about giving kids a safety net and learning to rely on one another. It’s about taking people out of their home environment to show them what’s possible. Moorelands has the ability to show young people how society can work better.”
When Geoff Morrison first came to work at Moorelands Camp, he was ‘fundamentally a shy person’. Aged 16, he learned of Moorelands as a high school student through the Bark Lake Leadership program. ‘I met some kids who worked at Moorelands there, when they told me stories of how great it was, I knew I wanted to go!’
He was, in his own words, ‘an introvert by nature’ but in that first week as staff, his life just transformed. ‘Suddenly I needed to have the skills to get to know people. I had to give it a try, to take a risk. It completely changed the way I interact.’
Looking back at the impact of Moorelands on his life, Geoff is sure it was indisputably the ‘indisolvable friendships formed at camp’ and the idea that ‘every day is a great day’. For young people, both the campers and counsellors, Geoff believes that the experience at Moorelands camp gave them an ‘empowering new sense of community, leadership and responsibility. Everyone there grew.’
Geoff now lives in Victoria, B.C. and works for CAPP (Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers). Did Moorelands have any lasting effect on his life after camp? The answer is a resounding yes! ‘It instilled in me a unique combination of community service, frugality and community spirit.’ Making programs work on a shoestring budget was part of the charm of Moorelands and taught him great lessons about financial responsibility for later life.
For example, one of his all-time favourite memories of camp was ‘Batman day – the best Special Day ever!’ The first Batman movie had just hit theatres and Geoff and his fellow counsellors were eager to recreate the magic of the movie for the kids at camp. With only some papier-mâché masks (crafted by papier-mâché mastermind, Mitch Gallant), shower curtains for capes and a lot of imagination to aid them, he transformed into Batman with his sidekick Robin (Hugh Pritchard) and they repelled off the dining hall ceiling to take down the Joker (Brian from maintenance). As they rescued camp from the Joker – and threw him into the lake – the enthusiasm and excitement from the entire camp was overwhelming!
Coming back to camp for Visitors Day 2015, Geoff was struck by how ‘Everything was different but all exactly the same.’ As he toured around camp with current camp staff Jersey, he was even able to spot the original high ropes course that he constructed with Mark Cote, Hugh Prichard and the help of many others, after being put in charge of the ‘Adventure Program’ and attending a Project Adventure workshop in the States .
Importantly though, at the center of it all, is still the kids. ‘You still get the happy kids having the time of their lives, the kids who start off not wanting to be there and then never wanting to leave.’ For Geoff, the importance of camp in these kids’ lives is the same as it ever was and can’t be understated, ‘They’re having fun in a really safe environment, both physically and emotionally…their eyes have been opened to a whole new world.’