B’nai Brith is in its 93rd year of delivering incredible camping experiences at its Lake of the Woods-based outdoor camp. Everyone – whether visitors as we were, day campers or long-stay campers – arrives via a 7-minute boat ride from Kenora to the dock at ‘BB Camp’ on Town Island. It’s a fabulous way to leave your current reality on the shore and get your mind set on all things summer camp related! From outdoor games, swimming and rope climbing to court sports, orienteering and packing up the canoes for extended trips throughout the Lake, camp is a constant hum of activity.
The youngest campers come from Kenora and surrounding cottage owners for day camp on the BB Camp site. Supported by Triple P.L.A.Y. through the Kenora and District Community Foundation (which in turn is supported by the Moffat Family Fund at The Winnipeg Foundation), youngsters that may not have any other opportunity are afforded the week of summer camping bliss on Town Island. Guided by camp staff and young leaders in training, approximately 40 day campers attend for a week of outdoor adventures and fun.
The older campers come from across North America. Many from Winnipeg where the tradition of attending BB camp has been passed on from generation to generation. Even the camp’s Executive Director Brenda Tessler-Donen was herself a camper more than 20 years ago. “The camp gets in your blood – and now, it’s my life and passion” she says.
Lunchtime in the main hall is not for the faint of heart! With more than 150 campers at their tables – from ‘Cabin 1 to Cabin 15’, the grilled cheese sandwiches and orange drink are lined up at the ready for the onslaught of hungry campers. It’s organized chaos in the friendliest of terms – and the noise level is a dull roar throughout. When it’s time for announcements, it takes a few rounds of well-known recitals by the young leaders to grab the room’s attention.
The day we visited, the 15-year olds were getting ready to depart en masse for their 11-day canoeing and camping adventure. There was nervous excitement as the goodbye hugs and words of encouragement are feted out and the packs were loaded securely into the boats. The girls were paddling off – two per canoe – in one direction and the boys in another. Tessler-Donen says the “campers come back as different individuals – more thoughtful, mature and self reliant. Their confidence has grown in leaps and bounds after an adventure like that on the lake.”
B’nai Brith camp has operated for more than nine decades on the Town Island site. The camp is in the throes of developing its next strategic plan, which includes a focus on reducing its footprint on the island and upgrading and expanding some of the well-used, existing facilities to meet demand. It seems everyone loves summer camp!