The Difference a Summer Can Make




As children, my brother Alex and I were familiar with being sent to various day camps throughout the summer. Both our parents worked during the day and did not like to see us sitting around the house. Each summer we were enrolled in a variety of day camps (usually run through the YMCA). However, in 2003, due to an overlapping holiday, YMCA camps were not running for one week. My parents quickly searched for an alternative camp to send Alex and I to. As they discussed several prospective camps, my Mom spotted a brochure for Foothills Camp. I’m unsure how that brochure came into our possession, however, mom and dad seemed very intrigued with the picture of a child waterskiing on the front page. It was very fortunate that the week specialized for children age 10-12 (I was 11 at this time) coincided exactly with the week that the YMCA camp was cancelled because I was available to attend Foothills Camp for the first time. At this point I had never been to an overnight camp but I was excited for a new experience. My brother, on the other hand, who was then 10 years old, had refused to join me.

I treasure the time I spent at Foothills Camp very much. Since I had not grown up in a religious household, I learned about God for the first time that summer.  I was fascinated by all the Bible stories and new information I was hearing about God from the pastors and camp counsellors. I had made some very good friends at camp and I dreaded leaving. I cried so much on the drive home that my parents decided to turn around and take me back for a second week at camp.

I began middle school after that summer. Although I had enjoyed much of my experience in elementary school I found seventh grade to be much different. My parents had sent me to a French school and I was completely miserable the entire year. My friends from elementary school had gone elsewhere and I was very lonely. I found the teachers either rude and abusive or completely indifferent. I was failing two of my classes. I did not care for the atmosphere of that school or the people in it. I tried not to be negatively influenced by my exposure to that environment.  I hated school and I would try to stop going. Soon I began to hate my life and took out my anger on my parents. They still remember that year as well as I do.

When summer finally approached, I desperately wanted to return to Foothills Camp. The second summer certainly didn’t disappoint me. The people were different at Foothills: kind, caring, full of love. It was that summer that I remember talking with kids who also lived in Calgary. They mentioned that they attend a school called Chinook Winds Adventist Academy (CWAA). Without any further knowledge of this school, I had decided that I too wanted to attend CWAA and was utterly determined to go.

This idea, of course, did not go over well with my parents. They were not supportive of this decision and absolutely refused to ever let me attend CWAA. They did, however, understand that I did not want to return to my previous school and respected my request to change schools. Instead they simply sent me to a different public school. That school, however, did not seem any different to me. It was just not what my heart was set on. About a week into the school year I flatly refused to go. As I was behaving so defiantly, my parents, perhaps realizing that attending CWAA was better than not attending school at all, agreed to send me.

I knew I was where I was meant to be as soon as I walked into Chinook Winds. The snobbiness and indifference I was used to had been replaced with friendly smiles and warm welcomes. The teachers cared about my scholastic progress and took time to treat me as an individual. I appreciated the opportunities that were provided for me. After each school year my Dad would try to convince me to go back to public school but every year I refused.

I’m currently taking a Biology degree at Canadian University College and starting my fourth summer working at Foothills Camp as a lifeguard.

I am very blessed that the experiences I had at Foothills Camp led me into a personal relationship with Jesus and I was baptized in 2008 at the Calgary Parkdale Adventist Church.

As a result, summer camp is a mission that has become very close to my heart. The opportunity to attend summer camp can be taken for granted by many children and the impact it can have may be overlooked by many adults. It is important for me to express the value of summer camp and the potential it has to make a difference in lives. I am very grateful that God somehow led me to Foothills Camp and I pray that other children are able to have the same fulfilling experience.

-Andrea Leaist