Anastasia Baczynskyj, Director of Youth Programs, UNF – Toronto Branch for New Pathway – Ukrainian News.
My boots crunching through the snow, I rushed excitedly to the site. Renovations were well underway, and I could not wait to see what had been done so far.
I started as Camp Director of Camp Sokil in 2016. That year, our campers slept in brand new barracks, nicer than any that I had slept in as a kid. In 2018, we installed brand new washrooms on both the girls’ and boys’ sides that exceeded all expectations. It was wonderful that the UNF Toronto branch was pouring so much love into a place that produced so much love back. However, our old kitchen building, the place where we ate all our meals, kept all our supplies and all played in together when it got wet outside, was starting to show her age.
Not that she didn’t do well through the years. Camp Sokil began in 1959, and the structure had withstood 60 years of heavy snows, wet springs, humid summers and the yearly arrival of unwelcome animal lodgers. After our last season in 2018 however, it was decided. The old kitchen needed a lot of TLC and we were doing a full renovation. I was thrilled when the Sokil Committee allowed my input.
So off I went to see my home away from home. As I arrived in the bitter cold, there were a few crews of men working away on the building, tearing away years of layers. One was redoing the roof, the other was digging a foundation around the building. A moat, nine feet deep and four feet wide, now stood in the way between me and access to the building that held so many memories for so many generations of campers.
Climbing down a ladder into the muddy icy ditch, I swung it over to the other side where the building’s side door was, now twelve feet up. Scrambling up the ladder, I opened the door to the kitchen and breathed in the familiar musty scent.
My job today was to gather all the supplies from the craft closet and place it in a pile in the middle of the eating area. The building was to undergo a complete gut, right to the frame. A brand new kitchen was being installed, new insulation, new drywall, new storage spaces and brand new sleeping quarters for the Komanda. I looked at the beautifully painted walls of the yidal’nia with regret. The green forests, grey mountains and sweet animals that the counselors had painted were going to be torn down. We could paint them again, I thought sadly, if only we had enough for new paint.
The renovation was going to be expensive. This was worrying news for me. With all the focus put to renovations, our programs would most likely need to find other sources of funding to continue growing. The program at Camp Sokil had become very engaging, educational and inspiring. We were an ORCKA affiliated camp and gave out internationally recognized canoe badges. We had masterclasses with professional ceramic artists that produced beautiful, usable pottery. We learned about technology and the arts through sessions with internationally recognized stop motion animators. How was I going to do this for the kids now?
The answer was an application to the UNF Foundation and a call out to our community. I wasn’t about to leave Camp Sokil without the love she deserved. I am now in the middle of my application to the UNF Foundation and will be requesting funding for our children to continue to do crafts, wonderful activities and to have a smooth summer of fun. Camp Sokil’s leadership and children’s programs will need all the help they can get.
With my breath smoking in the pale winter light later that afternoon, I looked at the pile of camp’s supplies. I checked, and double checked, that I had kept everything usable for the next season. I looked at my paint supply, then at the high walls of the building. We are going to need a lot of paint.
Donate to the UNF Foundation for “Camp Sokil Programs” at unfcampsokil.ca. Don’t forget to ask how your corporate or personal donation can be recognized. A donation to the UNF Foundation with funds earmarked for Camp Sokil Children’s Programs is fully tax deductible. Your support will help us to continue to raise many more Ukrainian Canadian children for generations to come.