Mike Roy started his Moorelands’ journey as a camper in 1992. From then he went onto become an LIT, a CIT and a counselor before becoming one of the first Program Assistants at our Grenoble After-school Program (now BLAST) in 1999.
“Two weeks at camp is like four months in the city in terms of learning…Moorelands taught me how to have friendships. It’s where I learned to trust, to problem solve, to communicate properly…80% of what I’ve learned, I learned at camp.”
Mike was prompted to share his story with Moorelands after Miranda Tulsi, a participant at our Grenoble program when he was a Program Assistant, came back to Moorelands to open her Grade 4 time capsule to her 25 year old self. “It was so great to see,” Mike told us on hearing about Miranda holding onto her package unopened for so many years, “It really made my day!”
It was especially touching for Mike, who like Miranda, grew up in the Thorncliffe Park/Flemingdon Park area. Mike knows first hand what it’s like for kids growing up in Toronto’s most under-served neighbourhoods. It was while living there that he first heard about Moorelands Wilderness Camp and this proved to be a life-changing experience:
“Myself, growing up, I was an inner-city kid. I came from a single parent family. Without Moorelands I would never have had the chance to go to camp. I would never have had the chance to go out into the real Canadian Wilderness. Camp should be for everyone; everyone should get to experience the real Ontario, to really go out there with only a pack on your back.”
Moorelands was recommended to Mike by his ‘Big Brother’ from Big Brothers Big Sisters of Toronto. He wasn’t doing so well at school, he found it hard to fit in there and was finding things tough to cope with. “My Big Brother told me about Moorelands’ Camp. My sister and I went together that first year, in 1992. I was 10 years old and I was so nervous. I was so scared that I wouldn’t make any friends. But every year I went back, every year I met friends, old and new,” Mike laughs at this, “So many of those friends, well I’m still in touch with them to this day! I’d never really been camping before, but I took to it really well!”
The more Mike talks about his memories of camp, the more his passion and enthusiasm for the place is evident. He beams with pride as he recounts more memories:
“It’s very cool. Your first impression is getting off the bus and onto a boat. That sense of wildness, it really encapsulates the whole idea of adventure and what camp represents to me. It’s such a special place. It’s where I learned to canoe… but aside from the tangible skills – like map reading and reading the weather – it’s more what I learned about social interaction and making friends that made it such a special place to me. Two weeks at camp is like four months in the city in terms of learning. You’re thrown together with all sorts of different people and you just have to learn how to make it work. You really learn how to get to know your fellow campers, how to negotiate with them and find out who these people really are.”
It’s clear that for Mike, this aspect of friendship and making connections is what really endures. “Moorelands taught me how to have friendships. It’s where I learned to trust, to problem solve, to communicate properly, even when you’re upset or mad. In every relationship you have in life, there’s always going to be altercations. But what’s so important about the way that camp is set up, is that you are taught how to be respectful, how to communicate with others effectively and find solutions, even when you don’t see eye to eye.”
In 1999, after taking the Moorelands’ CIT training and working at Camp as a counselor, Mike found out about the new City Program that Moorelands was starting up in the area that he grew up. “I already knew Mitch (Pady) from camp. He knew I went to Marc Garneau High School – he told me about the program that would be starting at Grenoble Elementary and asked me if I wanted to help out. I had to run there every day straight from school!” At the After-School program, Mike found that his sporty skill set really balanced well with Mitchell’s creative and artistic side. “I loved working with the kids at Grenoble, playing sports and bringing some of the teachings of camp to the city, it was so rewarding.”
Mike now runs his own business as a decorator and attributes much of his success to the skills and experience he gained at camp. “You know, I wasn’t the best student at school. At my High School graduation, a teacher asked me what I had learned during my school years. I told him, ‘80% of what I’ve learned, I learned at camp.’ And it’s so true!”
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