‘All systems go’ for this year’s Kenesserie campers

Dan Richards stands in front of the addition to the Spirit Centre at Kenesserie Camp. The space will be used for a new kitchen, and it is hoped that it will be ready for the first campers to arrive on July 7. (Photo by The Ridgetown Independent News)

By Michael Bennett
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Ridgetown Independent

It’s “all systems go” for another great summer at Kenesserie Camp.

Close to 200 people attended the annual open house earlier this month. Campers and their parents toured the facility, and Kenesserie supporters got a first-hand look at the ongoing renovations.

Kenesserie’s annual walk-a-thon was held the same day. It raised more than $20,000, easily topping the goal of $12,000.

“We had a good turnout, considering it rained all morning,” said Dan Richards, executive director at Kenesserie Camp, of the open house and walk-a-thon turnout. “We were worried the weather would keep people away.

“We had parents who wanted to show their children the camp before they sent them here and supporters to see how the changes are coming along,” Richards said.

Kenesserie is in its second year of drastic changes after a public health inspector deemed portions of the campground unsafe less than a month before the camp opened last summer.

The biggest project is a 1,600-square-foot addition to the Spirit Centre for a new kitchen. Richards said wet weather delayed concrete work for over two weeks.

“Our contractor is ready to keep going, and all the tradesmen are lined up,” Richards said. “Fingers are crossed because there’s no Plan B.”

“We have to get that kitchen done by July 7,” he said, looking ahead to the first of the seven weeklong camp sessions.

Camp officials were forced to rent a commercial kitchen trailer and purchase tents, tables, and chairs last summer. The former kitchen and dining hall was one of the amenities ordered closed by health inspectors because it was inside the bluff danger zone.

Three cabins that couldn’t be used last year will be moved into the safe area before camp opens next month. Richards said moving the cabins is less of a concern than finishing the kitchen renovations.

Camp officials are pleased with the pre-registration for the 2024 season. The all-girls and primary camps (ages 5-9) are close to full, while the other weeklong sessions still have openings.

“It’s tracking along similar in numbers at this point as last year,” Richards said, as more than 450 campers attended Kenesserie in 2023.

“Generally, we see June is when we get the second bump in registration,” he said, as the open house and school day visits in June typically generate more interest.

Kenesserie launched its Solid Ground & Soaring Future campaign earlier this year to raise funds for critical infrastructure upgrades so that the camp can continue to operate in the future.

The campaign fundraising goal is $500,000, which includes a $300,000 Building Fund, $100,000 Equipment Fund and $100,000 Sustainability Fund.

Immediately after the campaign’s launch, more than $142,000 was raised from private donors and funding from the United Church of Canada, the incorporated ministry of the Kenesserie Camp Corporation.

“We’ve had a strong response so far and anticipate a continued strong response from our long-time supporters,” Richards said.

“But there is still some work that will be done in the fall,” he added, as the hydro lines coming into and throughout the camp have to be replaced at a cost of between $80,000-$100,000.

Richards said a campaign conducted last fall was successful in raising funds to offset the expenses incurred by the emergency changes. Over $83,000 was raised, with individuals, organizations, and businesses from Ridgetown credited with more than a quarter of the donations.

The successful fall campaign allows camp officials to focus on raising funds for the current summer season and well into the future.

Parents interested in registering their children for one of the seven weeks of the 2024 camp can go to kenesserie.com to view the themed weeks available and the cost.



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