“Moorelands matters because it teaches everyone there to give back – there’s nothing more important than that style of leadership. Kids that spend enough time at Moorelands grow up to realize it’s important to give back too.”The Dude, aka Kieran Cousins, Moorelands Camp Staff Alum
For Kieran Cousins, known at Moorelands Camp as The Dude during the summers of 2018, 2019, 2021 when he worked as a cabin leader, summer camp is the best social training ground that exists.
Growing up in Peterborough, The Dude was an outdoorsy kid and loved attending camp as a child and knew he wanted to work at one. It was his mom, Jacqueline DeMoraes, who suggested going to work at Moorelands. She had worked there in 1979/80 and had fond memories of her time on Kawagama Lake. Funnily enough when The Dude looked up Moorelands online, it wasn’t even the beauty of the lake that drew him in (although, he jokes, “the idea of spending the summer on an island in the Muskokas was a no-brainer”).
No, what really made him want to work at Moorelands was seeing a video about Christmas Sharing – watching how the camp stayed in touch and supported the campers outside of the summer season it struck him: “these guys care.”
Being a part of a caring community was something that was particularly important to The Dude: “When I was 16 I only got to go to my childhood camp because I received a bursary – the community at camp pulled together to enable me to go. That experience really showed me how important Moorelands is.”
But even though The Dude was familiar with the camp world, something about Moorelands felt different, it really seemed to be a unique opportunity. “At Moorelands, you encounter people from every walk of life, that’s what’s great. For the kids, it’s so many opportunities bundled into one experience. The opportunity to go to Dorset – to be on an island on one of the cleanest lakes. To have the chance to ride on a boat. To have a week away making new friends and have adventures. That’s a unique experience for these kids that doesn’t exist without Moorelands.“
“The ‘magic of Moorelands’ is something we talk about at camp, a lot of people don’t understand it’s not the island or the buildings that make it special. Moorelands matters because it’s providing a unique opportunity that otherwise does not exist for 1000s of children. The dining hall is dead silent without the kids cheering. The Hub is nothing without the Friday night campfire. The staff and the campers, that’s what makes it. The opportunity to make a positive impact on a child is a what makes all the difference.“
“Most importantly I think, Moorelands matters because it teaches everyone there to give back – there’s nothing more important than that style of leadership. Kids that spend enough time at Moorelands grow up to realize it’s important to give back too.”
Like other former, camp staff, The Dude has spent a lot of time doing just that: volunteering with Moorelands outside of the camp season and giving back. Over the years, he’s donated his time to help out at Festi-fall and Christmas Sharing and this past summer he took part in our first ever Camp Clean-Up in Honour of Bushwacker – a new annual event held in memory of our former Site Manager at the camp who passed away in 2020.
“For most of us who’ve worked at camp, we feel there’s an obligation to preserve that magic – to show up and give a day or week of our time because we know how important camp is to the kids. When Jauntzy calls me, I often find myself saying “yes” before I even know what he’s asking! This summer we were helping install a kitchen is for the kids. We all really felt the impact of not having BWs around with his practical, no-nonsense, get-it-done attitude.”
Outside of camp life, The Dude works in the music industry as a producer and mixing engineer. While they don’t immediately seem like related professions, is there anything he learned working at camp that has been helpful in his career?
“Actually, yes!” He enthuses, “even the best musicians are really unsure of themselves just as children are also often unsure of themselves. In the recording booth, just like at camp, they’re looking for someone to give some structure, to give them positive reinforcement and confidence: to tell them they’re on the right track – that’s so important for helping someone grow.“
The Dude’s favourite thing about camp is watching the campers grow as leaders and helping others in their community. He recounts the story of one 9-year-old camper, Drew, who experienced home-sickness the first year he attended the camp. The following year, The Dude found Drew consoling another home-sick camper one year younger: “It was so cool to witness, he was recreating the kindness and empathy that he had experienced the year before. Empathizing as a child is not always easy as we’re naturally focused more on ourselves when we’re young. But Drew watched this younger camper struggling and then, without hesitation, he supported him: listened to him and talked him out of feeling sad. I was so proud. That’s the sort of kindness and community that camp encourages and models to the kids.“
The Dude explains that he’s loved working at camp because he knows the unique experience makes a lasting impact on the kids:
“Moorelands Camp teaches everyone there to give back and to be themselves and no one cares what you look like, where you come from – all that ceases to matter – kids from opposing neighbourhoods make friends. No sweat. Moorelands is just its own universe for a week – it’s an opportunity that doesn’t exist anywhere else! Moorelands is the most unique place in that respect. It’s life-changing.”
Thank you Dude, for sharing your story and continuing to give back to Moorelands Kids! Want to get involved too? Here’s some ways you can help:
- Share your story below using the form below – help us share the impact that Moorelands makes
- Make a gift on Giving Tuesday – November 30th to give kids a life-changing experience! You gift of any size will make a difference.
- Follow Moorelands Kids on social media @moorelandskids and share what we’re doing for GivingTuesday with your network – ask your friends to get involved too!
Help kids LEVEL UP!
Gifts made on November 30th will be MATCHED by The Ward Family Foundation. Donate to help kids LEVEL UP!