Camps For A Cause

Philanthropy editor Joan Kelley Walker told us about two important camps in Ontario’s cottage country that are in full swing. CNIB Lake Joe and the partnership between Camp Ooch and Camp Trillium are offering kids — and adults alike — some much-needed magic

CNIB Lake Joe

Since CNIB Lake Joe opened in 1961, the dream of having a safe, accessible place for people with sight loss and their families to enjoy the magic of camp has been evolving and expanding. The incredible power of recreation and rehabili- tation in a camp setting has been life-changing for thou- sands of Canadians impacted by sight loss.

Today, an estimated 1.5 million Canadians identify themselves as having a sight loss. (An estimated 5.59 million more have an eye disease that could cause sight loss.) CNIB Lake Joe is the only accessible camp for Canadians who are blind, partially sighted or deafblind. Celebrating its 60th anniversary, CNIB Lake Joe provides transformative experi- ences for people of all ages.

Many campers who come to CNIB Lake Joe meet others with sight loss for the first time. New friendships are formed, and everyone is welcomed as part of an inclusive and supportive community. Experiences that may have never seemed possible — water-skiing, sailing, rock climb- ing — are fully accessible, ensuring everyone can enjoy the summer camp experience without barriers. Guests from two to 92 years of age build independence, achieve their dreams and make lifelong memories.

Nothing holds CNIB Lake Joe back. During the COVID-19 pandemic CNIBLakeJoe@Home was launched, a virtual program keeping campers con- nected year-round, with online coffee groups, campfire singalongs, talent shows and camp-in-a-box, to name a few initiatives. During this 60th anni- versary year, CNIB Lake Joe offered “Holiday Weeks,” inviting participants to safely enjoy the amenities of CNIB Lake Joe.

Over the past several decades, thanks to generous donors, CNIB Lake Joe has expanded programs, updated facilities and connected with more campers. The camp is determined to reach a $1.6 million fundraising goal to support the construction of a new multipurpose recreation and learning facility, a much-needed indoor space to smash barriers to inclusion through adaptive sports, recreation and skill development.

For more information, please visit

Camp Ooch & Camp Trillium

A diagnosis of childhood cancer changes life in an instant. For affected kids and families, it can suddenly feel like everything is about cancer. Simple childhood joys are left behind and replaced by treatment, hospital stays and long absences from school. Camp Ooch and Camp Trillium offer a hopeful journey, where kids with cancer can just be kids, and families can connect with a community of strength and support when they need it the most.

In January 2020, soon after merging their two nearly 40-year-old charities, COVID-19 arrived. The camp team did not miss a beat, moving into high gear to meet the needs of isolated families. Community programs and overnight camps were cancelled, but virtual and in-hospital programs at three Ontario children’s hospitals filled the void. Thou- sands of experiences kept 1,650 kids and families connected and engaged in 2020, including 200 families new to childhood cancer. Volunteers stuck by, supporting virtual programs and packing camp-in-a-box kits. After many months, kids and parents reported feeling a sense of inclusion and connection throughout the pandemic — COVID-19, as it turned out, could not stop camp.

In-person programs are finally making a comeback and although it may look a little different, kids and families need the magic of camp now more than ever. Weekend retreats at overnight camp resumed in August and continue throughout the fall and winter, allowing families to maintain household “bubbles” while still accessing the fun, friendship and community that makes camp so magical.

A medical advisory task force and hospital partners are guiding the effort, with volunteers offering extra support. Parents are over the moon. One mom writes: “I sit here wide awake at 1 a.m. crying tears of happiness because it looks like our little warrior might get to experience camp this year after all!”

A lot has changed because of the pandemic, but the needs of kids and families haven’t. In fact, they have deepened. Childhood cancer hasn’t taken a pause. But neither have Camp Ooch and Camp Trillium.

As a privately funded charity that receives no annual funding from government or hospital partners, programs are provided at no cost to families. Donors make all the difference at Camp Ooch and Camp Trillium. Find out more at

I spend my summers on the lakes and what CNIB Lake Joe and Camp Ooch and Camp Trillium are doing for our children is truly the magic of Muskoka.