“I give camp a lot of the credit for making me more of a social person and making me more open to people. I also remember painting at camp and finding out that I love expressing myself artistically… Nowadays, self-expression is really important to me. I make music, I love painting and drawing, and I’m known to express myself through my clothing. Camp really magnified that need for me to become a more multifaceted person and enjoy all these parts of myself as a creative.”
Back when Gustavo was in Grade 7 and a teacher told him he would have the opportunity to go to Tims Camps with the support of Tim Hortons restaurant owners and guest donations, he was initially skeptical. Certainly, he figured, there was some kind of catch.
As young as he was at the time, Gustavo had already assumed there were some opportunities that would always be out of his reach.
“Things like that just didn’t happen to me,” Gustavo says now. “I thought, will my parents even let me go? Is this something we could afford?”
Tims Camps is free for all participants—but that wasn’t the only hurdle.
“I was hesitant at first,” explains Gustavo of the mental obstacles. “I was really taken aback.”
That hesitation faded as Gustavo returned for three more summers. During that time, as he progressed through the leadership development programming, he sharpened skills to help him carve a path through life, discovering that all his goals are within his grasp.
What did Tims Camps do for you?
For me it was the ability to let go, be a kid. It was a time I didn’t have to worry about things I shouldn’t have been worrying about.
I was always someone who took on a lot of stress, even though it wasn’t my responsibility. Things like paying for rent, bus fare, gas, those are things that were on my mind since I was 12 – those were things I had to be worried about, constantly. When I went to camp, everything was taken care of.
It was the first time I got to worry about things like: Am I going to make friends? Am I going to like the food? Things that people my age would have been focused on, where instead when I was at home, I was worried about bigger things.
I felt the most like a teenager when I was at camp. It was a nice little break for my brain. I didn’t have to stress out so much.
Did you find yourself changing in other ways?
I was such a shy kid. I kept to myself a lot. I give camp a lot of the credit for making me more of a social person and making me more open to people.
I also remember painting at camp and finding out that I love expressing myself artistically. I came back home and told my mom: “We need to buy brushes and paint. I have so much inspiration and I need to channel it.”
Nowadays, self-expression is really important to me. I make music, I love painting and drawing, and I’m known to express myself through my clothing.
Camp really magnified that need for me to become a more multifaceted person and enjoy all these parts of myself as a creative.
What do you think camp does for a kid?
When you’re younger and you don’t have a program like Tims Camps, you think that you’re nothing more than your circumstances – you can’t go anywhere or do anything because you don’t have the resources.
Then at camp, you have people explicitly telling you: “You are so much more. We want you to find what you like and keep pushing.”
That gives you drive. I’d come home from camp so refreshed. You feel like you’re more than your environment – that you have so much more to offer. It gives you the drive to pursue the things you want in life.