Since 1947, Easter Seals BC & Yukon has been an established leader in supporting the disabled community through Easter Seals Camps and Easter Seals House. In 1976, Easter Seals Camp Shawnigan opened to provide a summer camp on Vancouver Island for children and teens with disabilities.
Easter Seals Camps are a place where everyone is welcome and no one hears the word ‘no’. It’s a place where campers can be themselves, and explore and develop their abilities in a safe, warm, fun and supportive environment. Campers return home with new friendships, improved skills, and become more independent and active members of their communities. Camp offers both a magical experience for campers, and an important week of respite for families and caregivers.
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Cassidy had never been away from home before Easter Seals. She never had the opportunity to go to any other regular overnight camps – camps for children without diverse abilities.
“We had had a lot of barriers getting into regular camps,” says Gina. “We thought Cassidy would never have a camp experience, something I think is so important for any child growing up. One of my favourite memories is picking Cassidy up at the end of her first week that first year and she looked like she hadn’t showered in a week, but she had! She looked like any other child returning home from a week away at camp.”
Easter Seals campers are no different than typical kids going to camp. Just like everyone else they go to camp and have fun. They’re just kids and adults enjoying each other, supporting each other, and teaching everyone around them, including the counsellors, about what true friendship means. It’s a place for inclusion and acceptance.
“It’s what summer should look like for every kid,” says Gina. “They just want a chance to be themselves without anyone judging them and making assumptions about them. At camp they don’t worry about anything. They just have fun and a big part of why that is, is because of the counsellors.”
“For us as parents, it’s also a week that we miss our kids, but it also gives us time to rejuvenate, so we can have more fight in us for the challenges that lay ahead,” says Gina. “As much as Cassidy needs the week, so do we.”
"These camps need to go on. These camps for our children are life changing,” adds Gina. “It teaches them kindness, compassion, support of one another and not to be afraid. To be able to go out in the world and be themselves. Nobody places any expectations on them and they just shine. It’s those experiences that come home and shape them, giving them the tools to help them with their day to day life challenges.”
Grab your paddles and join the Victoria Canoe and Kayak Club for the 41st Annual Paddle For The Kids! This event is a unique fundraiser benefitting children and adults with disabilities who attend Easter Seals Summer Camp at Shawnigan Lake.
This year, Paddle For The Kids will be virtual and in-person! Paddlers will have their choice of paddling in-person, or tracking their individual paddling, kayaking, canoeing, hiking, running, walking and other types of fitness they choose, all while fundraising for children and adults with disabilities.
REGISTER NOW to fundraise and you'll get your own page to spread the word and fundraise for Easter Seals.
For 41 years, members of the Victoria Canoe and Kayak Club have paddled for 10 long and arduous hours taking a 75km journey from Brentwood Bay to their clubhouse on the Gorge. Their first crossing was done in 1982, in one 25-foot voyageur canoe with two crews of six paddlers. One crew would paddle to Port Angeles, while the other paddled back.
The Victoria Canoe and Kayak Club is a recreational paddling club based in Victoria, BC. The club is a not-for-profit organization devoted to the promotion of safe and skillful paddling on Vancouver Island and in the surrounding waters. Through their generous pledges, they have raised over $380,000 for Easter Seals Summer Camps in BC.