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Camp Tim on its way

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May 30, 2010

Camp Tim opens near Pinawa in 2013.

In what’s been a series of fits and starts, the Tim Horton Children’s Foundation has finally reached a deal with the province to build what’s billed as a first-rate camp for underprivileged kids on Sylvia Lake on the Winnipeg River system.

The year-round camp, which will cost more than $12 million to build, will pump additional millions into the local community during construction and its ongoing yearly operation.

It will also be a home away from home for thousands of children.

“It will be a terrific opportunity for young people to gain the skills and experiences that will allow them to make a real contribution back in their communities, with their families and in their future careers,” Premier Greg Selinger said Thursday. When it’s running, up to 260 young people from across North America will attend camp each summer. In the off-season, the camp will run programs for schools and youth groups.

Plans include a dining hall, creative arts centre, cabins and “yurts;” tent-like portable cabins.

Foundation vice-president Dave Newnham said the next step is for the foundation to start its environmental licensing process, which will determine how development of the site takes place. Newnham also said the camp, which will be just inside Whiteshell Provincial Park, allows the foundation to expand its youth leadership program, which is now only offered at two of the foundation’s camps in Ontario. The program is geared for kids ages 13 to 17 and is a five-summer commitment. A big part of it includes wilderness canoe trips.

“Those that graduate from the program are eligible for a $3,000 bursary to attend post-secondary education,” he said. “We know that we’ll be exposing kids from across North America to the beauty that exists here in Manitoba. We’ll also be exposing additional kids from Manitoba that have not been reached by our program before.”

The foundation, through Tim Hortons store owners, will fill the camp with kids who could otherwise not afford it. The big fundraising day is June 2, when Tim Hortons outlets across North America donate every penny from coffee sales to the foundation. In 2009, Camp Day raised more than C$9.4 million.

All children who attend one of the foundation’s six camps are selected from within the communities where Tim Hortons stores are located. Tim Hortons owners work with local youth groups and schools to select children between the ages of nine and 12 to attend a 10-day summer camp session or seven-day winter camp session.

Newnham also said the camp will work with local First Nations so that aboriginal programming is included in camp activities.

Last year, the foundation abandoned plans to build at Meditation Lake in Whiteshell Provincial Park after water tests confirmed concerns about the lake’s ability to handle development.

Environmentalists also opposed the camp being located on Sylvia Lake, not because they’re against the camp, but because the province does not have a clear management plan for the park.

“On the surface there is great, positive news,” Eric Reder, campaign director for the Wilderness Committee, said in a statement. “Manitobans know and appreciate that our wild areas, our natural areas, are finite. Every time we decide to develop more, especially in our parks, literally a little piece of our province dies.”

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