“It taught me how to take more control of my life in times when it feels like it’s out of control… Camp is such a good thing because you have these experiences and learn things that you wouldn’t have known before, or wouldn’t learn anywhere else.”
Leo had virtually no experience in the outdoors – certainly not in a kayak or canoe – before they spent their first summer at Tims Camps at age 12. On the water, Leo discovered poise and self control.
Leo had been having outbursts. It was often difficult for them to control their behaviour. But paddling a kayak or canoe makes you focus – you can’t let your excitement surge – and Leo soon discovered how to regulate their emotions.
Now, they don’t let a summer day go by without picking up a paddle, reconnecting with the discipline they first honed years ago . Around lunchtime every day in the summer, Leo heads out alone or with their grandfather to explore a Winnipeg-area waterway. For anywhere from 30 minutes up to four hours, Leo can be found paddling through waters in Birds Hill Provincial Park, Kildonan Park, or, if they're feeling bold, even the Red River.
That connection with nature – and the corresponding sense of self and responsibility it fostered – is just one-way Tims Camps multi-year leadership programming helped Leo find their way.
How did you first find yourself attending Tims Camps?
My guidance counsellor suggested it to me when I was in sixth grade – I was struggling with some behavioural issues and they thought it would help a lot.
I was really nervous at first, but everyone was really kind and made it really comfortable and happy.
It was really scary. But it became very fun and easy after a while.
What did you take away from camp?
It taught me how to take more control of my life in times when it feels like it’s out of control.
And even when it comes to behaviour, I was able to learn quite a bit about how to control outbursts. I used to make irrational decisions and I would have huge outbursts of energy. As camp went on, that happened less and less. I was able to think things through more.
And with friendships, I learned how to make them and keep them.
Do you have hobbies? How did you pick them up?
I do. Art and photography. In the first year of camp, they had a camera and you could take photos with the counsellors. There were other arts and crafts activities as well.
I was hooked very quickly. I took a camera one year and I was able to take around 400 photos – campers, counsellors, landscapes, and sunsets mostly, and I have one sunrise I was able to get.
Do you have a favourite place to take photos?
I have a few of my own cameras now so I’m able to explore so many different places and landscapes. Kildonan Park is really great. Even the Forks – or just walking down the street taking photos.
What do you think Tims Camps can do for a young person?
Camp is such a good thing because you have these experiences and learn things that you wouldn’t have known before, or wouldn’t learn anywhere else.
When you get back to your city and normal life, you’re able to transfer over all those skills you learned.