The month of July in Toronto saw terrible heat. Temperatures plus humidity exceeded 40 degrees Celsius – stifling hot. A yellow school bus pulls out of the parking lot of Patriarch Josyf Slipyj School heading NW of Toronto towards the town of Acton. The bus is carrying 20 small kids aged 5-7 years whose parents signed them up for day camp to escape the city heat and cool off in the pine woods near the playground at Camp Weselka, where a fresh breeze always blows.
Day Camp 2012 lasted 5 weeks through the month of July and into August. During this same time, a counselor-in-training camp and a recreational camp were also taking place for youth 8-17 years of age.
The bus drove into Weselka by 9:30 a.m. Monday through Friday for the 6-hour long day camp program and, by 3:30 p.m., the kids and their counselors were picked up and were back in the city by 4:30 p.m. Each day began with a prayer and the raising of the Canadian and Ukrainian flags, just as it is done at all CYM camps. After the children put away their daypacks in their assigned spots, they were read a story that set the theme of the day. They jumped right into arts & crafts, singing, playing sports, various games and scavenger hunts until noon. They “followed the leader” singing all the way to the dining hall where they joined the other campers for delicious hot meals prepared by the ladies of Baby Point. They always gathered outside the kitchen door and on the count of “3, 4”, loudly and in unison, thanked the ladies for lunch.
After lunch, the kids always ran to the little creek in the forest to play around and catch frogs. Then they carried on to their favorite activities of all – playing at the playground and swimming in the huge pool. Thanks to the lifeguards, the kids could also practice new skills like diving off the diving board into the deep end.
A big thank you goes out to CYM Toronto for funding the purchase of new life jackets, water toys and equipment to make the kids’ time in the pool not only fun, but also safe.
This year, Myroslava Czoli was responsbible for the day camp program and staff. Myroslava is a young pre-school teacher who calmly, ably and professionally worked with the children. Her helpers during the first week were Eerka Shust-Dankowycz from CYM Toronto and Anna Ostapiuk from CYM Hamilton along with the following over the five weeks of day camp: Ulana Stasyszyn, Zoriana Kilyk, Olena Olejarczyk, Anna Jewczenko, Michael Michalkoff, Adrian Hrycyshyn and Christian Chupa, all from CYM Etobicoke or CYM Mississauga. They played a huge role in not only supervising the children during the day, but they also played with them and ensured the kids were having a wonderful time.
Many of the day campers attended from three to all five weeks of the camp, which in itself boasts of the interesting and varied program offered in order to keep the kids engaged and enthusiastically wanting to return without fear or hesitation. The program was full of little surprises such as visiting Mr. Peter Hucal’s garden at Weselka to learn what is growing there and even to eat fresh little tomatoes, cucumbers, and beans, sorrel and even sunflower seeds they picked themselves. On the really hot days, the kids played with water balloons, and the counselors even built a small fire for a marshmallow roast. A domestic bunny visited so the kids could pet it and feed it carrots. A farmer also visited and gave the kids a wagon ride pulled by his tractor. On a blustery day, they got to watch a movie. The day camp kids were also visited by youth from the counselor-in-training camp for a fun day of activities.
Although within Toronto there are several schools and kindergartens that offer interesting day programs in the summer, the Day Camp at CYM Weselka with its beautiful surroundings is truly one of the best. Not only do the kids play outside in the fresh air all day, but their Ukrainian language flourishes, they learn a lot of things, develop their little personalities and become more independent while unknowingly, they are getting ready for future summer camps where they will overnight without their parents for 2 or 3 weeks.
The Camp Committee of the Ukrainian Youth Association of Southern Ontario encourages all parents of young children to send their kids to day camps and be confident that there is no better way for their children to enjoy the summer. The Ukrainian Youth Association (CYM) expresses its gratitude to the Day Camp staff, and to all the parents who entrusted the staff with their children and made the choice to send them to this year’s day camp.