WHERE IS TAMAKWA?
In Algonquin Park, Ontario, 175 miles (280 kilometers) north of Toronto (2.5 hour drive).
Algonquin Provincial Park. It was established as a wildlife preserve in 1893, and is one of the largest recreational areas in North America 3,000 square miles in area, with 2,000 charted lakes, 1500 ft. above sea level. The water is drinkable and the air is ideal for hay fever and asthma patients. Algonquin is the most celebrated canoe trip area on any continent. Families travel from around the world to go camping in Algonquin. For us, it is our backyard.
WHAT ABOUT TAMAKWA’S ORIGIN?
Tamakwa began in 1936 and was founded by naturalist Lou Handler of Detroit, and Omer Stringer, renowned Canadian canoeist and guide.
WHAT IS SPECIAL ABOUT TAMAKWA?
Trying to pinpoint Tamakwa’s appeal to three generations of campers and staff is no easy task. Tamakwa has been called a “people camp”. While the physical facility is top notch in every way, Tamakwa’s magic has always been the intangible quality of warmth and camaraderie among the camp family. That’s what we are, a family. Tamakwa is a small intimate place where everyone knows each other. Personalized attention is an uppermost priority with two to four counselors caring for a cabin of eight to fourteen campers, depending on the age of the group. Above all, Tamakwa is known for its spirit. Singing, cheering, and traditional values of camping are the mainstays of our camp life. In our minds, these values provide an important balance to the highly technological lifestyles of today’s urban youth.
Our staff is primarily composed of univer¬sity students, many of whom are former campers or people involved in education. Most have had significant camping experience and they have come to us either because we’ve sought them out for their qualifications or because they sought us out based on our reputation. They are screened through applications, references and personal interviews. Our staff is diverse and frequently come from around the USA and Canada, as well as from England, Scotland, South Africa, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand and many of the same places as our campers.
WHO ARE THE CAMPERS?
Boys and girls aged 7 – 16. A special Junior Tamakwan program is offered for 1st, 2nd and 3rd graders. Camp accommodates 250-300 children per session.
WHERE ARE THE CAMPERS FROM?
Camp is primarily comprised of Canadians and Americans. The Canadians are mostly from Toronto, but also from Montreal, Ottawa, Windsor, London, Hamilton, and other communities. The Americans are predominantly from the Detroit area, with groups of campers from Buffalo, Rochester, Ohio, New York, California, Chicago, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Maryland, and all points in between. Tamakwans also come from Mexico, Israel, France, Italy, Turkey, England, Belgium, and Spain.
WHAT ACTIVITIES ARE OFFERED AT TAMAKWA?
Keep in mind that all activities are instructional at all levels, beginner through advanced. In swimming, we use the Red Cross and Life Saving Society award levels. Other activities are on our own Tamakwa award level programs. Please Click Here to go to our Activities page.
HOW MUCH STRUCTURE IS THERE IN THE PROGRAM?
Two of the five daily activity periods are organized in cabin groups, as are the canoe trips and many other activities. The remaining three periods are individual choice. Our scheduling approach provides every camper equal exposure and access to each camp activity. The individual choice periods allow campers to pursue their favorite activities. Every period is scheduled and every camper and staff member has a place to be. Free play periods are before and after dinner. So, the hours of the day tilt in favor of structure, although there is ample time for campers to do their own thing. The younger campers are given more direction and supervision in the use of their free time.
Tamakwa is well-known for its special “All Day Programs” incorporating a creative theme with team competition in all camp skills, sports, and creativity. These special programs begin and end with a spectacular surprise presentation/introduction called a “Break”, and they are secretly scheduled in each camp session. Staff contribute to these special programs by running activities, dressing up and sometimes working in a group to plan and present them.
WHAT DOES A TYPICAL DAY LOOK LIKE FOR STAFF?
While there are many non-typical days in a summer, click here to see the general schedule of what staff members can expect during a typical day at camp!
MEDICAL STAFF ON HAND?
Full-time camp nurses and a physician are in residence. We have our own health center with daily “sick-call” and an infirmary. The nearest hospital is 30 minutes away in Huntsville, and is a new and modern facility, which has competently serviced all the area camps for many years.
HONESTLY, HOW IS THE FOOD?
Well, according to a TORONTO STAR food columnist a few years ago, it’s very good. Tamakwa’s kitchen is operated by a professional catering service. The food is prepared on-premises and breads and baked goods are homemade. The three daily meals have three courses each. The menu has been designed with the utmost consideration for nutritional balance, variety, and children’s tastes. While the regular menu often includes meat, an alternative menu is available for vegetarians. In addition, a fresh fruit snack is served daily, as well as a light snack before bed. We eat family style, everyone in the dining hall at one time. One morning a week, we have a sleep-in and a fantastic buffet brunch is served.
WHAT IS THE HOUSING LIKE?
Everyone lives in cabins, substantial wood cottages with electricity. There are bathroom facilities (we call them “biffies”) in all of the girls’ cabins and in those housing the youngest and oldest boys. The middle range boys share the use of a central biffy or community bathroom facilities in the vicinity of their cabins. The cabins have been the focal point of a major rebuilding program begun in 1982. Since that time, we have restored or totally replaced every camper cabin.
Counselors and some Specialists live in cabins with campers. There are between 2 and 4 Counselors/Specialists in a camper cabin and their quarters are partitioned from the campers to afford a degree of privacy. Activity Leaders, Trippers and some Specialists live in staff cabins with between 2 and 6 staff living in a cabin together. Most staff cabins have private bathrooms.
DOES TAMAKWA HAVE ANY RELIGIOUS ORIENTATION?
Most of the campers and staff are Jewish, but many are not. Tamakwa is not a religious camp and has no affiliation with any synagogue, church, or agency. We are one big family where everyone feels perfectly at home. Traditionally, we say grace at meals and have a liberal Friday night Sabbath observance. Friday night services, as we call them, are of a creative non-worship nature… usually reflecting on a particular theme such as friendship, nature, cooperation, etc. It’s our “time-out” from the busy week to have a quiet evening. The nicest part about these contemplative services is the camp family assembling together on our “Slope” overlooking the spectacular view of South Tea Lake.
For the three generations of campers of all ages who have come predominantly from Detroit (385 miles), it apparently is not too far. Nor is it too far for the children who return year after year from the west coast, east coast, the Midwest, and the South, including Mexico, along with overseas countries. The attraction: an intimate camp community where every child is surrounded by the security of people who care, where each child feels the sense of belonging to something with tradition and continuity, where community as opposed to competition is the emphasis, where the beauty and cleanliness of the environment is renowned and matched by few other spots in North America, and where the two most important priorities are safety and fun. Experience tells us that if a child has all that, it doesn’t matter if the camp is 50 miles away from home or 500 miles away from home. It has always been the “away from home” part that affects a child; not so much the actual distance. We are, of course, only a phone call away. Homesickness, when it occurs, is dealt with sensitively and with great success.
DOES TAMAKWA CATER MORE TO OLDER THAN TO YOUNGER KIDS?
Somehow Tamakwa was once considered to be suited more to older campers than younger. It simply isn’t so. We pride ourselves on our rustic setting, but offer the amenities necessary for a feeling of comfort and security. Every camper — regardless of age — gets equal exposure and access to all camp activities. Each instructional program is geared to the individual’s age and physical capability. Many of the evening programs are organized by age groups, and those involving the entire camp offer activity that caters to each age level. Our “Junior Tamakwan” program offers a special two-week session to accommodate children in grades 1, 2, & 3 who may be coming to overnight camp for the first time. This program was carefully designed to give the youngest campers the same sense of achievement, challenge and fun as that experienced by the oldest. Canoe trips, for example, are meant to be positive experiences for every age. For the youngest, the trips are tempered to their abilities so the experience is enjoyable, easy, and also full of adventure.
WHAT IS TAMAKWA’S CONTRIBUTION TO SOCIETY?
Our alumni span the range of professional life. Former campers have gone on to become some of North America’s most respected members of the political, medical, legal, business and entertainment communities, just to name a few. Tamakwa has produced a U.S. Senator, Congressman, federal judges, and a NASA space shuttle astronaut. Among Tamakwa’s most notable alumni in entertainment are Chevy Chase and the late Gilda Radner. Dan Aykroyd became an honorary Tamakwan when he first visited in 1986 to do a special Tamakwa rendition of the Blues Brothers. Three alumni still very involved with Tamakwa are filmmakers Sam Raimi, Mike Binder, and Warren Zide. Sam’s most recent success was directing Spiderman. Binder is a character actor and writer/director of HBO’s Mind of the Married Man. Zide is a producer, best known for American Pie. Sam and Mike are connected with the film INDIAN SUMMER, a Disney/Touchstone picture based on — and filmed at — Camp Tamakwa in 1992. Mike wrote and directed it; Sam was in the cast.
IN A SENTENCE, WHAT IS TAMAKWA’S PHILOSOPHY?
Tamakwa provides a place where young people can grow and develop both individually and collectively; to learn the skills of every day living and giving; develop positive physical, emotional, and ethical values and habits through the day to day example of experienced and highly motivated adults; and to learn by real experience the worth and value of one’s self and of others. And one more sentence… to do ALL this in a nurturing secure environment, situated in a pristine wilderness setting where they learn to appreciate the wonders of nature.
IS TAMAKWA AN ACCREDITED CAMP?
Tamakwa is an active, participating, and accredited member of the Ontario Section of the Canadian Camping Association, the Ontario Camps Association. Tamakwa’s directors are accreditation inspectors for the Ontario Camps Association.
WHAT ARE THE IMPORTANT DATES FOR THE 2016 SUMMER?
June 20– Activity Leaders, Canoe Trippers and Nurses Arrive
June 23 – Counselors, Specialists
June 29– First Session Campers Arrive
July 25 – Visiting Day
July 26 – Second Session Campers Arrive
August 20 – Staff and Campers Depart