Camp Tapawingo has been a part of my summer from ages six to 15 years old. Year after year, I would return to my favourite place. In 2022 after a two-year break because of COVID, I was able to return to the beautiful shores of Georgian Bay as a Senior Counsellor.
Attending camp has taught me many important lessons, like how to make friendship bracelets, and pick up a “daddy longlegs” spider, but also personal development skills like how to be compassionate, independent, a leader and a good team player. My memories of Tap – our affectionate nickname for the camp – remind me of happy times spent in the sun with friends and get me through tough times, reminding me of how brave and strong I truly am.
One of my most impactful memories of camp are the canoe trips, which are such a special experience because I never get to do them outside of camp. I have been on five canoe trips and each one was a totally different experience, reminding me of the power of working in a team and how physically and mentally strong I am. Portaging is a great example of this strength, where you must carry all of the canoe trip supplies, including the canoe, from one lake to another. To portage a canoe, you carry it on your shoulders over your head, either with another person or by yourself. The first time I portaged a canoe, I cried the entire time. Despite it being one of the hardest things I have ever done, almost eight years later, I still look back on this experience with fondness. My counsellors encouraged me the entire way, telling me to just take five more steps. Their belief in me was a reminder that I am stronger than I think I am. During my last year as a camper, I was able to portage a canoe solo for the first time. Whenever I am in a situation where I think I can’t do something, I think back to portaging on canoe trips and remind myself that I am strong, capable, and can do whatever I set my mind to.
Another memory I treasure about camp is the community. The bonds you create with your camp friends are some of the strongest you will ever make. I was in a cabin with the same group of people year after year and even though we had all spent the last year apart, we clicked back into our routine like no time had passed. This past summer, when I was a counsellor for the first time and on the Swim Staff teaching swimming classes, I felt the same bond with all of my fellow counsellors and built strong friendships. I look forward to when we are all alumni and return to camp for reunions.
Camp is all about tradition, which keeps people connected to camp and to each other. Camp Tapawingo just celebrated its 95th anniversary. I was lucky enough to go to the luncheon with my mom, aunt and other alumni that still hold Tapawingo very near and dear to their hearts even after many years have passed. Whether it is singing songs in the dining hall, losing your voice during the colour competitions regatta, the great race and blanketing – where the new campers and staff are officially welcomed into the Tapawingo family – or the candle lighting, these traditions make camp what it is: A community that is about fostering a sense of belonging. I know that in 20 years time, if and when I return to camp, I will be welcomed with open arms and transported back to summers spent at Camp Tapawingo as a teen.
Camp Tapawingo will always be in my heart, and the lessons I have learned will guide me through life. “Thank you” Camp Tapawingo for helping me become the person I want to be.
Camp Tapawingo is a girls and gender diverse youth camp that offers carefully developed programming in a relaxed camp setting allowing youth to thrive as they develop leadership skills, gain confidence and embark on new experiences and fun adventures.
Register for Camp Tapawingo.
Josie Santaguida was a camper at Tapawingo for nine years and a Senior Counsellor in summer 2022. Josie is a second-generation camper and loves spending summers in the lake at camp. She is currently studying Civil Engineering and is on the varsity swim team at the University of Waterloo.