Fresh Air Fund Story
Each week during the campaign, campers and staff from Fresh Air Fund camps will share their memories in their own words. Geoff Morrison was a counsellor at Moorelands Wilderness Camp in 1986. Over the next four years, he moved up to senior staff, eventually becoming program director. He currently lives in Victoria, B.C. and works for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.
I learned of Moorelands as a high school student while attending the Bark Lake Leadership program. I met some kids there who worked at Moorelands and when they told me stories of how great it was, I knew I wanted to go.
I was an introvert by nature, but during my first week there as a counsellor, my life just transformed. Suddenly I needed to have the skills to get to know people. I had to give things a try, take risks.
It completely changed the way I interact and had a lasting effect on me. The lessons I learned there play a part in my daily life.
Camp instilled in me a unique combination of frugality, community, doing the right thing and getting it done. Making programs work on a shoestring budget was part of the charm of Moorelands and taught me great lessons about financial responsibility.
For example, one of my all-time favourite memories of camp was Batman Day. The first Batman movie had just hit theatres and my fellow counsellors and I were eager to recreate the magic of the movie for the campers. With only some papier-mâché masks (crafted by papier-mâché mastermind Mitch Gallant), shower curtains for capes and a lot of imagination to aid us, I transformed into Batman. Together with my sidekick Robin (Hugh Pritchard), we repelled off the dining hall ceiling to take down the Joker (Brian, from maintenance). As we rescued camp from the Joker — and threw him into the lake — there was such an overwhelming feeling of enthusiasm and excitement.
Looking back, however, the greatest impact Moorelands had on my life was the indissoluble friendships I formed. Moorelands Camp empowered both campers and counsellors with a sense of community, leadership and responsibility. Everyone there grew.
When I returned to Moorelands for Visitors’ Day last summer, I was struck by how everything seemed different but the same. As I toured around camp, I spotted the original high-ropes course I had constructed with Mark Coté, Hugh and others after being put in charge of the Adventure Program.
I also recognized that camp is still just as important in the lives of kids today as it was to me and the kids back then.
Moorelands has always been about giving kids a safety net, physically and emotionally, while they learn to rely on one another. It has been about showing them what’s possible, opening their eyes to a whole new world.
This year, Moorelands’ Visitors’ Day is July 15: I encourage you to go and have your eyes opened to a camp’s transformative power.
Moorelands Wilderness Camp, located on Kawagama Lake near Dorset, is for children from low-income families.