By Louise Rachlis
Heather Heagle, Executive Director of the Ontario Camps Association, loves summer camp.
After growing up as a camper and a counsellor, Heather worked with camps in City of Vaughn and also assisted special needs camps around the world. She took over the executive director position in November, 2010.
“I’m trying to bring forward the importance of camping,“ she says. “Camp has touched the lives of thousands and thousands of people. It’s an integral part of growing up, teaching team work and skills for life, creating the confidence that you can depend on yourself in any situation.”
One of her current projects for the OCA is working on the “what is the stamp of a good camp.” “It means that this camp is credible, it’s branded with an OCA logo, which means they follow provincially recognized standards. While we can’t completely eradicate accidents, there is a much higher standard of health issues and programs with an accredited camp.”
Another benefit of the OCA is the training programs provided for the youth who work at the camp. “Parents know their children are getting quality leadership training. The training the OCA provides gives parents a sense of security that young adults are doing something different, without tweeting and electronic devices; they are learning and building social skills that are much needed in the future.
As well, the OCA assists schools and guidance counsellors. “We work with them when they are streaming students as they choose future careers. All kinds of careers come out of camp. You can be dishing out food one moment and making an executive decision another moment. A lot of the schools rely on us for subsidies, and we are opening up our programs to the many cultures that are within our province. We have so many ethnic groups that we can teach about summer camps, ensuring them that dietary needs are met, that boys and girls are separate if that’s their culture. We instil in the parents that their children are safe and we will be in contact with them.”
For more information on the Ontario Camps Association, view www.ontariocamps.ca.