Transcript of our interview with Jillian, Parent
What's unique about Camp Kandalore that made you want to register your children there?
I'm a mother of four kids ranging in age from 11 through 17, and my 17-year-old started going to Camp Kandalore when he was eight. So we have a pretty long history with the camp and I also have extended family members who sent their children there, so we had a lot of background there, and that was one of the reasons we sent our kids to the camp. So I guess for my family the question is really what’s unique about Camp Kandalore that kept us there?
I would say that we really like the focus on canoe tripping. That was a big selling point for us, the authentic connection to nature that comes through the staff that work at Kandalore and the other kids. It's not just a place to hang out in the summer— it's a real place to learn about nature and be part of it, particularly through the canoeing culture and canoe tripping.
I also find Kandalore unique in the way that it connects with its campers year-round. It really forms a year-round community—it's not just about a place to go in the summer. Pre-pandemic examples would include a winter skating party for everyone who happened to be in the GTA, and mailouts for families that weren't local.
And then during the pandemic, it was bringing long signs saying “We'll miss you this summer” when the camp had to be closed, and dropping off games and activities for the kids. There’s also a social media focus, with photos posted to help keep kids engaged year-round.
here's also a huge variety of activities at the camp. If you have a child that's less interested in sports, they can enjoy ceramics and arts and crafts and drama and so on. And for the sports-loving kids who just want to try new things, there are amazing ropes courses and high-tech jumpy things.
For my family, Camp Kandelore goes way back. My older brother started going there in the 1970s when it was not coed, otherwise, I would have gone as well, and it just became a family tradition. My male cousins also attended, and then my older niece and my kids followed suit. So for us, it’s a bit of a family connection.
We also cottage in what’s currently the Peterborough Canoe Museum, which started with a collection from the founder of Kandelore that was on-site at Candelore, and then it was transported to Peterborough where the collection was donated and became part of the Peterborough Canoe Museum.
What are some highlights of Camp Kandalore?
Kandalore is very dedicated to canoe-tripping. For the child who's less interested in long trips, they do provide a variety of options. So, for example, my daughter who went for one month this past summer, could choose a five-day, seven-day, or eleven-day canoe trip.
And for those who are interested in canoe tripping or those who are a little bit concerned but just want to give it a go, there's a really comprehensive program. My 17-year-old recently did an explorer trip, which is really done with gusto. And there were, I believe, ten-month-long canoe trips run as a bit of a double cohort post-pandemic for those in the 16 to 18 age group, which was a month-long whitewater canoe trip in areas north of the camp in Ontario and other provinces. It was an absolutely wonderful and unique trip.
So that was really exciting. I think the organization of the canoe trips, the quality of them, and their safety really made me comfortable as a parent. The regatta is a quite well-known program at Kandalore: campers are divided into four teams, and at the end of most of the sessions, there are fun competitions against one another, whether it's in a giant multi-person canoe or a swim race. But it's very collegial and really fun. And I know that's always been a highlight for my campers.
And I would say the camp campus is really lovely, like lots of camps. It's on a huge acreage, but there's just tons of waterfront and lots of little unique places. There’s archery up in the woods, and mountain biking for the senior boys across a bridge and down the lake.
I feel that each of my children is unique and their own kind of person, and yet somehow all four of them have managed to thrive at Kandalore. So I think that's a testament to the camp.
I also really like that Kandelore has a diverse population of people working there and the campers So there's kind of a friend for everybody there. And I feel that it really suits all personalities and all interests, perhaps even more than other camps.
It’s been a great fit for each of my very different children.
My oldest is very outgoing, interested in drama, and really loves socializing. So as a senior, having social evenings with the other seniors has been great. He loved that it was coed. He loved the long canoe trips because that was a real focus for him.
My 15-year-old daughter really enjoyed the canoe trips because we really got her out of her comfort zone. And she likes more quiet activities and meeting friends in sort of a quieter way. And so she managed to do that as well.
And then my twins, I have a female and a male twin, are each different from each other and they just found Kandalore to be a fun experience for them. The girl is really action-packed, and she likes to jump on all the bouncing things and go on the high ropes course and leap off everything. And then my son is a little bit more cautious and enjoyed pottery and archery and things that were a little more controlled, although I'm not sure why I called archery controlled, but that's a testament to the safety at Kandalore.
Also, Camp Kandelore has a beautiful large campus on a wonderful lake with great facilities.
And it’s very safe. And I feel that canoe trips are a great way for kids to be off screens and cooking over fires and doing all those important things. Camp Kandalore provides a safe and nurturing environment on a great campus with great opportunities and especially safe canoe trips. And canoe trips are offered that are probably longer than a lot of other camps.
How did Camp Kandalore help build your children's independence?
The kids up until and including those in Grade 5 look so small and little, and they’re fearful and not really sure what's happening. And they were made to feel comfortable immediately at Kandalore. And then picking them up, whether it's one or two weeks later, depending on if it was a pandemic year or not, to just see the improvement in their confidence and just that feeling that they would like to go back next year, [it’s great]. And I think the counsellors really instilled that sense of trying everything and to test your limits and explore your comfort zone. I really noticed a difference in all my kids when they were younger and a real transformation, especially if they were able to go for two weeks, which they did outside of the pandemic year.
For my daughter, who just went for a month for the first time as a 15-year-old, it's a classic story, but I felt like she came back transformed with a big increase in her confidence. She used to be or is traditionally a little less outgoing than her mom, at least. She came home with wonderful stories to tell, an increased confidence, and an increased ability to make new friends and feel comfortable in new groups. I think the canoe trip and the adversity and the weather changes and all that helped as well. And I think really good role modelling on the part of the counsellors also helped the kids.
My 15-year-old daughter was especially attached to her counsellors and really got a lot from her relationships with them, which was great. And then I would say probably most impressive was the transformation I saw in my son after the one-month explorer trip. I can't say enough good things about that. He really came back and as a 17-year-old boy, he was able to articulate that it was truly a life-changing experience for him.
I think we'd all like to spend a month on the water right now, especially as we come through the pandemic. It was a very healing experience, especially at this time in history. But I think that it would have been amazing, regardless.
My son was supposed to go on a trip to the Baron's Pigeon, which was unfortunately hit with forest fires. And Kandelore pivoted at the last minute, found another safe and amazing trip for them and they spent, I think, 25 days on whitewater and my son really bonded with the group. The trippers were fabulous and I think he made a lifelong connection with everybody on his trip and he was really fit and happy. He was disconnected from his phone and other devices, and he was really into reading and having deep conversations about the meaning of nature and life. It was just amazing. I would recommend that anybody send their kids on one of those trips.
What advice do you have for families considering overnight camps like Camp Kandalore?
I think it’s easier if you have more than one child and you're accustomed to sending one away. But if it's your first child heading off to camp or you’re the parents of one child, and it’s your first experience with this, it can be really intimidating, probably almost more so for the parent than the child. If they're simply nervous in all the healthy ways, then I would recommend gently encouraging them to register for camp, and gently encouraging yourself to let them go. Kandalore is a great one-week option for new campers if they're young enough when they start. And I think that that's a nice gentle introduction.
I would also recommend sending them with a care package and sending them mail. There's also an email system where the campers don't see a screen, which is great, but you can send them emails every night and tell them stories. You can also pay a little extra money and send them photos. So you can connect with them.
Kandalore is also great about having check-in calls. Regardless of the age or stage of your camper, they'll call you within a few days of arrival and let you know how your child is adjusting to their cabin, whether they’ve made any friends, and what activities they’ve enjoyed. And that's very helpful as a parent: it helps you feel quite relaxed. I have had kids be homesick and had to have extra calls and I felt like that was managed very well through the staff and admin and the staff dealt with all issues quite effectively..
There'll be a time when they're probably going to move out at some point anyway, and it's great practice for their confidence. I think summer camp in general, and I can speak for Kandalore, is just a really nurturing, kind, gentle environment and is probably really good practice for being separated from your children and for your children being separated from you.
How do you get the most out of Camp Kandalore?
I remember my now 17-year-old coming back from his first time at camp, I believe he was eight and went for two weeks, and he came back and I heard him telling his younger siblings that camp was paradise. And he said specifically he loved Kandalore and he had so many stories, but I'll never forget that use of the word “paradise.” It was very sweet.
You get to do whatever you want as long as it's within the rules of the camp. So that really left an impression on me. And now, in what would be his last summer as a camper, my son has just come home from this absolutely transformational explorer canoe trip experience and completely connected to nature away from screens in ways I never thought possible, especially after the pandemic.
My 15-year-old started out quite homesick, and it was a challenge for her. But she always wanted to go back. She never declined registering for the next year, but just to see her growth over the years, from a timid young camper going for a week to a young woman going for a whole month and just living the whole experience and living large was really great for me to see as a parent.
My two younger kids followed suit. There was just no question they were going to go to Camp Kandalore and follow their big brother and sister. I have referred the camp to several families who have gone over the past few years, and each one of them, their children, have enjoyed it and felt that it was a worthwhile experience and have always gone back the next year. So I guess that's further testament that it’s not just me and my family that love it. It's been a great experience for everybody.