KANANASKIS COUNTRY – A $2 million funding commitment by the province will go towards infrastructure improvements for the YMCA Calgary’s Camp Chief Hector.
The funding announcement on Thursday (Aug. 18) for the camp, which is located to the east of Exshaw in Kananaskis Country, will help improve facilities of the nearly century-old camp.
“Camp Chief Hector is a special place. It’s a place of adventure, where finding your way leads to finding yourself,” said Shannon Doram, president and CEO of YMCA Calgary. “It’s a place of friendship where bonds are formed and community is built. It’s a place of potential to build future leaders.”
Half the $2 million will come from the Community Facility Enhancement Program grant and the remainder from the Ministry of Culture and Status of Women’s Cultural Infrastructure Support grant.
Both Minister of Culture Ron Orr and Banff-Kananaskis MLA Miranda Rosin spoke of the importance camps had in each of their lives.
“The growth at summer camp isn’t always just as a child. For myself, some of the largest growing emotionally and professionally was also a counsellor,” Rosin said. “It’s not just the counsellors who can have a profound impact on the camp, the children who attend the camp can have the most profound impact on the councellors. … I think there’s so many life lessons you can learn and emotional fortitude you can gain by being a camp counsellor.”
Orr said it was “one of the most personally rewarding announcements” he’s made as a provincial minister.
“Camp is one of the most powerful places there is. It’s a tradition, an experience that provides opportunities for character forming or building lifelong friendships or establishing connections to nature and the land and encounter role models and mentors,” he said.
Kim Jones, a volunteer on the YMCA Calgary board of directors, said the camp is a good environment to develop friendships, learn life lessons and develop leadership skills but to also learn about community.
“It also helps establish a sense of community,” she said. “When you come here and belong to something special, you know what it’s like to be part of a community and a contributor to a community.”
The camp has an estimated $14.5 million in needed infrastructure improvements.
Doram said the first priority was to replace camper accommodations, which should be completed by next summer. Other work will see teepees replaced with yurts, program areas improved and “ensure these changes are considerate and relevant to culture and perspectives of the Stoney Nakoda.”
The ranch area, waterfront and electrical infrastructure will also be upgraded or replaced.
The camp first began running in 1930 and is operated by YMCA. The site is about 445 hectares (1,100 acres). Once the repairs are completed, it’s estimated roughly 14,000 campers will use the facility, Doram said.
The work is expected to begin before the end of the month, while construction would have to work around the seasonality of the camp and weather.
Doram said there’s a long-range plan to get the rest of the funds, with an estimated $8 million from different levels of government. The YMCA board has committed $1.5 million and a fundraising campaign will look to get the remainder.
She said they expect the funds to be raised in the next two to three years once it begins in the fall. Doram called the UCP funding a “catalytic investment to get us going.”
“We’ve heard from a number of donors that we want to know this is a project that’s a winner. [This] investment signals it in a very big way,” Doram said.