By Sarah Ryeland
The best part about summer camp is, well, everything.
From the friends you make to the new adventures you have, nothing beats spending a summer at one of Muskoka’s many camps.
Often when you think of summer camp you think of young kids, some even leaving their parents for the first long-ish period of time. What you might not think of is the amazing job opportunity summer camps give older kids.
As a lifelong camper myself, I enjoyed many years participating as a guest, in fact I still do. But some of my fondest memories are of being on staff.
A summer job is a necessity for most teenagers and university students, but I’ll let you in on a little secret – being at camp for the summer hardly feels like work. Sure, you might have to clean a few toilets or ruin a few T-shirts, but the experience is totally worth it.
And while it might not be the best paying job around, nothing can beat the life skills you learn while working at camp.
“Working at camp gives you the life training, experience, wisdom and leadership skills that would take a lot more time to get in another setting,” says Michael Ankenmann of Camp Mini-Yo-We. “There’s a level of responsibility that young people won’t have again until they’re parents. They’re responsible physically, emotionally, socially and spiritually for these kids, and they have a great impact on the lives of young people.”
Camp Mini-Yo-We’s staff is a unique bunch. As a Christian camp, teens and young adults who work there for the summer are there for the rewards of a summer job and also spiritual fulfillment. The camp takes a lot of care when selecting staff – many are former campers – because of the great impact they have on the lives of campers.
“We’ve been blessed with a great facility,” says Ankenmann. “But it’s our staff that people comment on most. Our campers depend on the staff to have a great time.”
Mari-Beth Crysler of Camp Wabikon agrees.
“If you love children, it’s the best place to be,” she says. “You get to be crazy and be outside; it’s a fun, natural lifestyle. You can be who you want to be and thrive in a non-city environment.”
Crysler also stresses that working at camp is a labour of love.
“People come to work at Wabikon because of the love of camp,” she says.
In other words, salary isn’t the main focus.
She notes that more experienced, senior staff members are paid a little more than younger staffers, but that university students often take a higher-paying job for the two months before camps starts, so that they can afford to spend the rest of the summer in Muskoka.
A job at camp is also an opportunity for those who missed out on a camp experience in their younger years to participate. From cooks to lifeguards, counsellors to senior management, there are plenty of opportunities to get involved.
And while you might work a little harder than your friends that are flipping burgers, “the rewards,” says Ankenmann, “are much bigger.”