“Camp was a place I didn’t have to be a grownup all the time. At camp, I didn’t have to take care of everyone… It helped me understand that I’m important and I need to take my life into my hands sometimes, even if it’s just going camping for a bit.”
Maxwell didn’t have a care-free childhood. The oldest of four siblings, he has been working full-time since he was 16 – juggling two jobs at times – to help support himself and his Saskatoon family.
Sometimes, attending Tims Camp in the summer – which he did every year beginning when he was 11 – felt like the only break Maxwell got.
“I always had a lot of responsibility on me and I might have grown up too fast,” Maxwell says.
“Camp consistently gave me something to look forward to throughout the year. Growing up in a lower-income family, camp was always that constant. It taught me a lot about work-life balance. It helped me understand that I’m important and I need to take my life into my hands sometimes, even if it’s just going camping for a bit.”
Taking care of others is in Maxwell’s nature. That’s what drove him, now 19, to volunteer his time on Tims Camps’ Youth Advisory Council. Returning to camp each year helped him discover his potential and grow as a leader—and now he works to create the best possible experience for future campers.
Why did you decide to volunteer your time with the Youth Advisory Council?
Part of it was just seeing what a great place camp was. I also joined the Tims Camps Youth Advisory Council because I was thinking about my own experience.
As a kid, I was worried I would never connect enough to be that perfect poster child in a sense, because I’m queer, because I’m two-spirited, I’m not the kind of label that someone wants to have.
I realized how important it is for other kids like me to have a good experience at camp. No matter how hard people at camp tried to make things easy for me, it’s always a hard thing, especially when you’re younger.
So, I wanted to take what I learned from my experiences and use it to help other kids.
Do you remember your first impressions of camp?
It was definitely a little bit overwhelming at first. I’ve always had a bit of social anxiety, so it was overwhelming and continued to be for a couple years.
But every year, it got a little bit easier.
Was there a particular year that stood out as your favourite?
I’d say my last year of camp. I went to the Tims Camp in Kananaskis, which was where I went for the first year. Going there again was crazy – being now grown up and able to reflect on how much my world had changed and how I’d changed over the years. It was healing and full circle.
One boy in my group, we had been together in my first year in camp, and we got to reconnect. We still talk to this day. We have plans to hang out when I move out to Vancouver.
What are your plans there?
I’m going to film school. It’s always been my main goal.
The main point for me is I want to be able to bring my community and our people to the media and the big screen.