Camp Chief Hector Gave My Kids A Sense of Purpose

This story was originally posted in 2009. It’s such an inspiring story, we had to share it again.

Camp Chief Hector

I recently received an email from my daughter Juliette who works for the Community YMCA. The end of her message read, “YMCA Calgary: We build strong kids, strong families and strong communities.” As I look at my family today, I see four strong kids and a united strong family that continues to reap the rewards of YMCA programs.

My name is Amanda, and this is my family’s Y story.

Our journey with the YMCA began some 15 years ago when our family life was turned upside-down. I was sitting down to a cup of tea with a friend when the phone rang. My husband, the breadwinner of our family, had broken the law and would be taken away from us. Suddenly a single mom of four young children, I knew that our lives would never be the same.

I was passionate about parenting. I adored my children and wanted nothing but the best for them. How would I be able to give them everything I dreamt of, as a single mom in dire financial need? I remember all the clichés – every cloud has a silver lining, the darkest hour before the dawn.

For us, there were some silver linings. Our true friends came to the forefront. One such friend, Chris, told me there was a way to have the childhood experiences I wanted for my children. I visited the South YMCA and applied for subsidies that would send my two eldest to YMCA Camp Chief  Hector. I felt ashamed and embarrassed to reveal our family’s financial status, but the applications were approved. Juliette and Alistair could to go to camp for $35 apiece instead of $800. I couldn’t believe there were angels out there who cared enough to support my family.

As a mother, helping my children achieve a sense of purpose is part of what it means to be a parent. A sense of purpose is just what Camp Chief Hector instilled in the lives of each of my kids.

When I picked them up from camp that first summer, Juliette came running across the field in her oversized blue rain boots and borrowed rain jacket. “Mummy,” she said, “I want to be a counselor and a leader one day.”

When they were old enough, my youngest sons attended Camp Chief Hector too. Clifford, the middle brother, described it as “an initiation into manhood,” and he hasn’t been the same since, shifting from drugs and poor choices to a life of purpose and direction. I knew there had been a change in Christopher, the youngest and painfully withdrawn, when I read a letter he sent home.

“Mum,” it read, “I am having so much fun. You know how I am shy? Well, after the first day I have made some friends. In fact, we are already ‘tight.’” Tears of joy rolled down my cheeks.

Today, our journey with YMCA is stronger than ever. Juliette and Alistair both work with the Community YMCA, helping to build strong communities for our future. All four children are still involved with Camp, either as alumni, volunteers, staff or campers.

I do not know where we would be if it were not for the generosity of YMCA Calgary’s Strong Kids donors and the amazing, gifted staff. YMCA truly does build strength in people, and in families.