MAG­I­CAL MO­MENTS AT Camp Smitty

Ottawa Business Journal - Ottawa at Home - - CAMP SMITTY -

Com­mu­nity Voice

WhenTom Pa­trick ar­rived at camp at the age of 12, he knew im­me­di­ately that he be­longed. “Camp was the most fan­tas­tic ex­pe­ri­ence of my life,” Tom says of the for­mer Camp Min­wassin run by the Boys & Girls Club and re­named Camp Smitty in 2001 af­ter Brian Smith, the late NHL player, le­gendary Ot­tawa sports broad­caster and for­mer Min­wassin camper. “I was a shy, quiet kid, but camp brought out all sorts of con­fi­dence that I never knew I had.”

Fast for­ward 30 years and Tom Pa­trick is still at camp, but now he’s in charge. When the op­por­tu­nity to lead the camp came up in 2002, he jumped at the op­por­tu­nity. “It wasn’t my plan to be­come Camp Di­rec­tor, but this is my dream job,” he ad­mits.

Tom grew up in a big Cen­tre­town fam­ily and times weren’t al­ways easy. “I was adopted and there were never less than six kids in the house, and some­times eight or nine,” he says. But while sum­mer camp was a wel­come re­lease, it wasn’t just the ca­noe rides and cabin liv­ing that hooked him.

“I had great coun­selors who of­fered en­cour­age­ment, not pres­sure,” he notes. “I was not used to see­ing 17 and 18 year-old kids who were fo­cused on be­ing good role mod­els.”

His child­hood ex­pe­ri­ences at camp give him an edge as Camp Di­rec­tor be­cause he knows first­hand the dif­fer­ence he is mak­ing in kids’ lives. “I think about how my life would have been dif­fer­ent if I hadn’t gone to camp – usu­ally when I see peo­ple I grew up with who took the wrong path,” he says. “The camp gave me sports, the out­doors, and iden­ti­fied my lead­er­ship qual­i­ties – it was a whole life path that they gave me.”

The camp is spe­cial for an­other rea­son too. Thanks to the sup­port of the Ot­tawa com­mu­nity and the an­nual Brian Smith golf tour­na­ment (www.bri­an­smith­golf.com), the camp wel­comes al­most 1500 fully sub­si­dized kids ev­ery sum­mer. “So if you can pay, great; and if you can’t af­ford it, then just pay what you can,” says Tom. “We won’t make money the rea­son your kid can’t come to camp.”

While Tom ad­mits that there are lots of stress­ful times and long days, he also notes that, “It only takes one mag­i­cal moment at camp to lift me three feet off the ground.” And for the kids in his care, mag­i­cal mo­ments are what Camp Smitty is all about.

Cather­ine Clark is the host of Be­yond Pol­i­tics on CPAC.

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