If so, you need to talk to your kids. Children were rewarded at this Markham day camp last summer for such things as pole dancing, taking off their clothes and sucking a counsellor’s toe!?!
From The Toronto Star:
One Markham mother (whose name is being withheld to protect the identity of her children), said she knew something was wrong when her 12-year-old daughter and her friend were tight-lipped after she asked about their third day at the Town of Markham-operated Camp Chimo.
“They just looked at each other and said, ‘We can’t tell you,’” the mother said.
When she asked them why not, the girls – who were enrolled in the first two-week session of the Voyageurs program for 12- to 14-year-olds — told her their counsellors had said not to tell their parents what they’d done that day.
“And then I said, ‘Well, you have to tell me,’” she said.
The girls said they’d played a game called “What would you do for an ice cream bar?” where campers were split into groups and were rewarded with treats for completing various tasks.
First, her daughter told her she’d licked the inside of a porta-potty wall.
“The counsellor said if you do that, you can earn an ice cream bar,” she said her daughter told her.
The mother said she tried not to overreact. She told her daughter she could have gotten sick.
But then the story continued.
Her daughter said she’d also rubbed ash from the campfire on her face and washed it off in the muddy river running through Milne Dam Conservation Park, where the camp was being held, off McCowan Rd.
“And then she said, a girl laid down, she pulled up her top, I spit in her belly button and someone else drank it,” the mother said. “So they were doing body shots with spit.”
Her daughter told her other kids did worse for an ice cream snack — pole dancing without pants on and running around the outdoor camp with their shorts on their heads.
One girl sucked the toe of a male counsellor hired to work with special-needs campers, she said.
“When a male adult counsellor asks a 12-year-old girl to suck his toe and I’ll give you an ice cream bar, that’s sick,” the mother said.
Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti confirmed the game took place at the camp on July 6 and involved 38 campers.
“The dares, the challenges, came from the campers themselves,” he said. “What was really unfortunate about this incident is that the dares were actually allowed to proceed.”
He said the town’s recreation staff took “immediate steps” after the incident was brought to their attention by the two parents the Star spoke with.
“Once all of the concerns were reviewed, some of the staff at the camp were spoken to and that game of challenge was taken off the curriculum,” Scarpitti said.
He explained the game was not meant to be played the way it was that day.
“It’s not unusual to play a game of challenge in camps,” he said. “Unfortunately, at this point in time and at this particular incident, it got out of hand.”
The mayor said the group of five counsellors, who ranged in age from 17 to 21 — and which parents said included a supervisor as well as the special-needs counsellor — were sent home the next day and asked to remain home July 8.
The mother the Star spoke with said a letter sent home with campers the following day didn’t address why the game was wrong.
“A game was played with participants of our Voyageur Program at Camp Chimo where participants were encouraged by Counsellors to participate in dares to earn a reward,” read the letter signed by the town’s director of recreation Mary Creighton. “These dares escalated to a point that left some participants uncomfortable.”
Emails from Creighton to parents obtained by the Star indicate the director made calls to parents, met with the camp’s staff the day after the incident and suspended the involved counsellors, “pending a final decision.”
But the mother said a discussion with participants described in the letter was actually only five minutes and also failed to discuss why the game was inappropriate.
And that day she said her daughter’s new counsellors suggested the campers write a group letter to the mayor to ask him not to terminate the counsellors.
When an expert was brought in to speak to the campers, she said the 20-minute discussion focused on camper-to-camper peer pressure.
The mother said ultimately she just wanted to ensure the involved counsellors wouldn’t be supervising children again.
“They had exercised the poorest judgment,” she said.
But parents later learned from Creighton that the counsellors had rejoined the camp after the first session had ended, to supervise a younger group of campers.
The mayor said that when he was informed of the situation he convened a meeting of senior staff and asked to have the counsellors removed from the camp.
He said the counsellors were reassigned to other town positions.
“I thought it was in the best interest of the counsellors themselves and in ensuring a strong level of confidence that the town was doing everything it could,” he said. “We’ve not taken this matter lightly.”
An independent party was also hired to conduct a review of the incident in late July.
But the mother said it’s been difficult to find out whether the counsellors will return to the camp next summer or what changes will be made to how the town’s camps will be run after she participated in the review.
The mayor said the report made 14 recommendations that have informed an action plan to improve supervision, training (counsellors are currently asked to complete a provincially approved High Five program), hiring processes, programming, issue management and communication.
“We are committed to make sure our camps, our programs, are safe, they’re inclusive and they’re a high-quality program,” he said.
When asked what she’ll do with her daughters next summer, the mother said one thing is clear.
“They would never go back to Camp Chimo,” she said. “I think they’re safer home alone.”
The Town of Markham offered 50 various day camp sessions this year, specializing in various sports, arts and other activities.
Did your kids attend Camp Chimo or did you work there? E-mail Jennifer Pagliaro
Activities campers participated in as part of the “challenge”:
• Sucking a counsellor’s toe
• Camper kissing another camper’s tongue
• Pole dancing with no pants and only underwear
• One camper spitting in another camper’s belly button, then another camper drinking it
• Licking counsellor’s feet
• Licking another camper’s armpit
• Taking off their pants, putting them on their head and running around camp in underwear
• Licking the inside wall of a port-a-potty
• Eating ants
• Being duct-taped to a tree
• Putting duct tape on another camper’s eyebrows and ripping it off
• Hitting a counsellor in the face
• Putting mulch in their mouth
• Climbing in a garbage can with garbage in it and rolling down a hill
• Eating soap
• Running around camp with dirty socks in their mouth
• Smearing campfire ash on their face and then washing it off in the muddy river
Compiled by a parent of one of the campers