“Moorelands creates SO MANY opportunities… for development, for growth, for fun… I have a huge debt of gratitude. Gratitude. Gratitude. Gratitude!”
Victoria Swindell joined Moorelands as Swim Staff in 1979 and since then has been unwavering in her support of Moorelands Wilderness Camp.
She remembers her first experience of camp with great enthusiasm: “My sister worked there and out of the blue I got a phone call from Camp Director, Doug Varey – a lifeguard hadn’t shown up and he’d heard I was trained… Would I be able to help them at Moorelands? I was up there the very next day!”
During that first summer, Victoria was ‘blown away’ by Moorelands.
“Moorelands Camp is just a whole other level. The amazing range and quality of programs: kayaking, canoeing, rope courses…not to mention the spectacular scenery!”
After starting out as a lifeguard and counsellor, Victoria went onto become Program Director under Mark Cote in 1982. When her time as staff came to an end, she just couldn’t stay away. She continued to volunteer on work projects for years after, helping to improve irrigation and revamping bathrooms and continues to support Moorelands financially to this day.
Her love for Moorelands is clear from the treasure trove of stories she recounts with such joy. From the good (“I learned so much about the importance of teamwork but also independence – feeling capable, that you can and will do this!”)To the not so good (“the time I came back dirty and hungry from a 3 day canoe trip to find that Karen Reid had moved the contents of my ENTIRE cabin to the center of the sports field…furniture and all!”)
Many years have passed since Victoria’s time on Kawagama Lake, why is it that she continues to support Moorelands?
“I was an underprivileged child,” explains Victoria, “but I had an amazing childhood despite big time poverty. I was able to go to camp myself because other people were generous. And that has stuck with me. I’m so glad that as an adult I’m able to give back.
“Being exposed to nature as a child changed me in the best possible way. I’m so happy to be able to provide that experience for other kids. To see the kids at camp running around and enjoying nature fills me with joy. I believe that every kid should have that experience.”
Victoria is also quick to point out that the camp helps young people in other ways too -in the employment opportunities it creates for young people as camp counsellors. “It’s a cycle, both the campers and staff learn these amazing skills that they can take back into their lives and the community.”
And finally, it’s the friendships that really keep her connected. For Victoria, the most enduring aspect of camp is the “life-long friendships that have so enriched my life.”
She’s so proud to be a member of the Moorelands Alumni Committee who organized their first event in March 2016 – the Moorelands Alumni Reunion. Reuniting with so many friends from the past reminded Victoria of the debt of gratitude she feels to generations of Moorelanders who have created this wonderful organization:
“Moorelands is like a building,” she explains, “each generation builds on the work of the last. I just want to say Thank You to all those who went before and all those who will come after. You make such a difference in the lives of Toronto kids.”
Thank you for reading Victoria’s story! If you’d like to support our camp like Victoria, why not donate now to send a kid to camp! You can share your own Moorelands story by contacting Helen Banham in the Moorelands office!