“When the Summer is over, do you just take the rest of the year off?”
Wenonah was well-represented at the 2014 Ontario Camps Association Conference.
That’s a question that we often hear. Though the Summer is by far our busiest season, there is lots going on year-round to keep us busy. Hiring our staff team, working on new program initiatives, confirming facility improvements, and marketing take up lots of our off-season time.
The off-season also offers a number of professional development opportunities, which are important for us to keep up-to-date with the hot topics in the camping industry. This year, Wenonah was represented at the Ontario Camps Association (OCA) Conference, British Columbia Camp Conference, Camp Owners & Directors Association (CODA) Conference, and America Camp Association (ACA) Conference.
Wenonah has a great reputation amongst our peers in the camping profession in Ontario, across Canada, and around the world. Senior Director Jeff Bradshaw presented a workshop at the OCA Conference and sat on a panel for another workshop; he also presented at the BC Camping Conference. He has been a popular workshop facilitator for years.
The OCA Conference was held over three day at the end of January in Richmond Hill. In the past, Wenonah has sent many Camp staff to the Conference as part of their training in advance of the Summer season. At this year’s Conference, Jeff, Assistant Directors Fraser “Tito” McOuat and Rianne Barette, Lizzie Sarjeant, and Associate Directors Nancy Vandenbergh and Mike Stewart (in his capacity with Ryerson University) represented Wenonah. As a special treat, alumnus Dan Sadler performed at the Conference banquet with his band Art & Woodhouse.
The 2014 OCA Conference (“Nature To Networking”) was held over three days in late January.
We asked Tito, Rianne, and Lizzie to reflect on their Conference experiences:
Why did you decide to attend the OCA Conference?
Rianne: “I saw the OCA Conference as a great opportunity to learn more, and also support the culture of Canadian and Ontario camping outside of our Wenonah community. There is nothing better than learning from people who have made summer camping a focus of their lives and have experienced anything and everything when it comes to Camp. Truly was a great first time conference experience for me and I look forward to attending again!”
Lizzie: “I was interested in learning more about the camping industry and about Wenonah’s place within it. I also had the opportunity to represent The Roberta Bondar Foundation’s exhibit hall booth.”
Tito: “Being in a new role at Camp, it is important to be receptive and willing to adapt and become a well-rounded staff member for the benefit of all campers and staff at Camp Wenonah. By going to the OCA Conference, I was able to attend workshops to refine the skills that I have learned at Wenonah.”
What did you learn from this year’s Conference?
Alumni Dan Sadler performed with Art & Woodhouse at the OCA Conference banquet.
Tito: “Being able to hear how other camps approach different situations that may arise helped me to grasp things that we were doing, but also things that we weren’t. Trends in society and how people are approaching a technologically advanced era in camping are a few of the many tools and ideas explained to help us further Camp Wenonah.
I also learned more about the community that is Ontario camping. Every camp has their tight-knit group of individuals who think so highly of their camp, but also respect and admire other camps. The admiration people have for Wenonah helps to prove that what we strive for as a group has provided an impact not just on our campers, but the whole camping community.”
Rianne: “Biggest take away for me is to finally put a name to a face for many people in the camping community. We hear Jeff talk them all the time, so it was great to get to meet these influential and inspiring people!
Some of the other learning highlights for me would definitely be the sessions I attended on health and safety, canoe tripping, and social media. We discussed some ideas we have already implement and see at Wenonah, but what I take away from these sessions are new ways of approaching and building on the things we offer. From keeping our insurance standards up to date regarding outtrips or keeping the ideas fresh when it comes to social media, there was a great diversity to what was discussed and what we each shared in these sessions.”
Lizzie: “ At the Conference I learned that there are people, businesses and organizations involved in the camping community at every level. It was a unique experience to have camp directors, food service providers, charitable camping organizations, camp software start-ups, and bunk-bed manufacturers all in the same room sharing experiences. I was proud to learn that Wenonah has an excellent reputation in the camping world. Though we are a new camp (some camps are over 75 years old!) , the phrase ‘I’m from Wenonah’ was always greeted with huge smiles and the occasional ‘I love Wenonah!’ There was a reassuring camaraderie amongst camp delegates , reminding us all that even though technically competitors, we’re all working together to achieve similar values and goals – for different campers, maybe, but for the same society.”
How do you think attending the Conference made you more prepared to assume your role at Camp this Summer?
Lizzie: “Everything I can learn about the camping community will help me in my role as WCIT Director alongside Jack this summer. From attending various sessions on leadership at Camp, I thought critically about which techniques best supported the values and environment at Wenonah. Having explored different areas of the broader camping community, I will be better prepared to help WCITs navigate their place within it.”
Tito: “Hearing how other camp leaders deal with certain situations will definitely benefit me in my leadership on a day-to-day basis. It is always good advice to listen to those who have done your job before you, and many of the individuals representing other camps are always willing to share their experiences. I tried to take in as much information from others to help address things that may present a challenge to me in the coming season.
And from the cold confines of the Sheraton Parkway hotel in Richmond Hill, the OCA Conference reminds you that camp, living in the woods, is only a few short months away!!”
Rianne: “Attending the OCA Conference has helped me to further focus in on the sections of Camp I will be overseeing this summer. I gained a number of fresh ideas and perspectives in a diversity of areas including how to lead our staff team to success, run an educational and foundational tripping program, be proactive around health and safety concerns, manage our administration and support our campers through their Summer Camp experience.
The OCA conference was a great addition to some of the exciting things we are preparing for the 2014 season – Let the countdown begin!”