By Millie Farley
For over 30 years, Dovercourt Recreation Centre has been providing summer day camps to generations of Ottawa residents.
Now with a “normal” year on hand post-covid, the local community hub is planning around 50 different camps for 2023. Their topics range from art to sports and everything in between. Registration started Feb. 2, and spots are going fast.
Kitchissippi Times spoke with Robin Cloutier – director of recreation at Dovercourt – to learn what’s in store for this summer.
KT: Why are summer day camps important for children? What kinds of experiences and memories do they get out of it?
RC: Summer camp provides the best environment for human connection. It’s a place where friendships can happen instantly and deeply and last a lifetime. In summer camp, Dovercourt creates the space for children to play and be themselves (or a pirate, or a dinosaur, or an astronaut, or an engineer, or a fishing champion). When children feel safe and loved and are entertained, they open up and become the best version of themselves.
KT: Which of your camps is the most popular and why?
RC: We have lots of “most” popular ones. The specialty camps that fill the most quickly and get the longest waiting lists are LEGO Camp in partnership with OrangeSTEM Education, robotics camp with Ottawa Robotics Academy, and fishing camp with Ottawa Musky Factory. Cake decorating is also understandably popular with all of our campers.
Our theme camps for children entering junior kindergarten or senior kindergarten are also very popular as they are highly structured but incredibly fun. Some of our theme weeks this year include dinosaur galore, candy land craze, and pirates’ playground.
KT: How many staff do you have? Tell us a bit about how Dovercourt offers job opportunities to local youth.
RC: We expect to hire at least 100 for the camp staff team. Our team structure of camp directors, counselors, buddies, inclusion support workers, and counselors in training provide lots of individual attention.
Day camps provide an ideal summer job for youth with regular hours in a structured 8:30-4:30 schedule. It’s a great way to make money while playing outside and learning something new – like white water rafting, pottery, or fishing. We are proud that most of our staff return summer after summer and most of our local leaders stay with us all year.
KT: Tell us more about your ‘inclusion and integration’ system.
RC: We welcome everyone into our programs and some campers require extra support to have the best experience. Most often this means extra love and care by our inclusion team which includes camp buddies, inclusion leads, and one-on-one support workers. We are grateful to the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) and Youth Services Bureau to help make it sustainable. Families can meet with our inclusion team before camp starts to ensure support is in place; and it’s a priority that all of our staff are well trained on behaviour management and accessibility.
KT: So how does the community benefit from your summer camps?
RC: We are dedicated to serving the families of Ottawa with a family-first approach. We understand what parents are looking for in care for their children. We understand what teenagers and students are looking for in summer employment. Most importantly we understand what children want and need while spending the day with caring and fun individuals, making new friends, and learning new things.