Coming home to camp cedarwood

I wasn’t sure what to expect, coming in from the parking lot on that warm summer day.

Everyone from Toronto immediately complained, “We need to change into our shorts!”

We wheeled our suitcase inside and as I looked around I was simultaneously awed while thinking, “I am for sure going to get lost in here.” Camp Cedarwood is huge.

Our main host for the week introduced himself. Brennan told us that “at camp Cedarwood, we are a family. For us, every summer here is coming home.”

I’ll admit. I was a little skeptical about that statement. Okay, a lot skeptical. Toronto has hardened me. You can be in the middle of hundreds of people, and make no connections at all. Yet, as I looked around the rec room, I noticed the fireplace illuminating all the comfy chairs, along with the piano against the wall. (Brennan would later rip-in-half the sheet music of an over-played song at the end of the week like the true hero we discovered him to be.) As we were given the grand tour of the massive property, (they had a costume & prop room!) I couldn’t help but thank whatever deity has been over-seeing my life.

The air was fresh. The scenery was beautiful. And most importantly, I felt the kindness radiating off of the Camp Cedarwood and the Duke of Ed LEAD staff. I was nervous that 10 days would be too long to be in a strange place. Now that I’m back in Toronto with the chance to reflect, it feels like it wasn’t long enough.

Every morning at Camp Cedarwood, you are greeted with a smile. Sounds cheesy right? Not until you wake up to a hundred people smiling at you at nine in the morning. I am so not a morning person, but it sure is hard to stay grumpy when the kids are singing Disney songs at the top of their lungs for an extra bowl of cereal.

You see, at Cedarwood, we were informed that “we eat family style.” We all sat together as a room, and if you take a fancy to the food at another table – you gotta sing for it! With over ninety-seven people comes a lot of food allergies, intolerance, and vegans and vegetarians. Cedarwood was more than happy to accommodate. The fruit bowl on the counter was always stocked with apples, oranges and bananas, making sure we never went hungry through-out the day. Each meal was an eclectic mix of delicious flavours that nourished bodies eager for activity.

And there were a lot of activities. So many in fact, that we didn’t have the time to do them all within the week. What we did do though ended up being the most fun I can remember having in years. The smiles radiating off the participant’s faces told me they felt the same. From high ropes and wall climbing to skateboarding and mountain biking. From soccer and basketball to kayaking and canoeing, Cedarwood had it all, and they wanted to share.

I didn’t realize until later into my stay that a few of the staff had graciously offered to stay an extra week – their last week of summer – to accommodate our Duke of Ed trip. Each staff member took turns adjusting our harnesses for the high ropes and teaching us the proper techniques for paddling a canoe. They built us a fire and together we made smores. They joined in our talent night, and danced with us at our banquette. One particular counsellor resonated so strongly with the participants they couldn’t help but break out into chants of “Samson! Samson! Samson!” over the week.

In the end, we didn’t just become a part of Camp Cedarwood’s family – Camp Cedarwood became a part of the Duke of Ed family.

So, despite my early skepticism, as I sit here reflecting on the memories of Cedarwood and the feelings they instill – I am comforted by the warm thoughts of being home.