In a couple of weeks, children and teenagers from all over Ontario and beyond will head to RKY Camp to swim, canoe, kayak, play Capture The Flag, do arts and crafts, and much more. But during meal times, campers and staff at RKY may feel a little cramped.
For eight years, I spent two or three weeks of my childhood at RKY Camp. I ate hundreds of meals in the Homestead, RKY Camp’s dining hall. I’ve lived in Kingston for a total of about 39 years, and only last month did I hear that Brit Smith, the owner of Homestead Land Holdings, funded the building of RKY’s Homestead in 1979. I often thought it was interesting that a local company shared the same name as my vaunted Homestead from camp. Now I know why.
This year marks the Homestead’s 40th birthday, and RKY Camp has launched a fundraising campaign, Back to Camp, to build a new dining hall. They’ve simply outgrown the original Homestead, despite several expansions over the years.
RKY Camp is a traditional summer camp inhabiting about 13 acres just outside of Parham on Eagle Lake, 45 minutes north of Kingston. It was founded in 1929 by the Rotary Club, Kiwanis Club, and the YMCA, hence RKY.
The fundraiser aims to raise $1 million to build a new dining hall and kitchen, which also will include expanded administration offices, washrooms, and a barbecue area.
“The original Homestead was built to accommodate 80 campers,” said D’Arcy Munn, camp director at RKY. “We’re up to about 160 now. The great thing about the new dining hall is that we’ve committed to building this thing without an expectation to increase our camper capacity. We’re just going to better meet the needs of our current campers.”
RKY’s enduring popularity is something Munn attributes to RKY remaining a more traditional camp experience.
“We don’t have water trampolines, we don’t have water skiing. Campers just go down to the boating area or swimming area,” said Munn. “I know of other camps in Ontario where there are 25 different program options. The kids do six of them every day, so they didn’t really learn a lot of skills, but they could say that they did a lot, even though at the end they were forgetting everything they had learned. At RKY we have seven program options total, so we can really focus on those skills for campers who want to learn them.”
Once the new dining hall is built, the current one will be repurposed for both summer camp and RKY’s year-round programming.
“Our out-tripping centre will go into the current Homestead building, and we’ll use part of the existing kitchen to help with food prep for the out-trips,” said Munn. “We’ll have a big open space with room for breakout sessions, which will really help with our year-round operations, such as schools and church groups that visit in the off-season. Seven of our cabins are winterized now and we have up to 70 people here in the winter.”
The camp recently went through a revitalization campaign to fund the replacement of the septic and a number of camp buildings, which led directly into the current Back to Camp campaign and other fundraising initiatives.
“The Back to Camp campaign is our focus right now,” said Munn, “but we have some other fundraising initiatives on the go. In the 100K for Kids campaign, we’re looking for 100 people to donate $1,000 each, and they’ll get a special spot on our donor recognition tree and a branded paddle.
“We’re also auctioning off the tables for the new dining hall, which will all be built directly from the wood that we clear to build the hall,” Munn continued. “So for $5,000, a business or family can put their name on that table, which will be a milled, live-edge table, made from RKY wood.”
Munn acknowledges that there is a lot of fundraising activity right now, but says a big chunk of donations come from camp alumni.
“We hope to raise most of our money from the 1,000s of people that have experienced RKY Camp,” said Munn. “Even if it’s $20 at a time.”
More information about RKY Camp, the Back to Camp campaign, and other fundraising initiatives can be found at www.rkycamp.org.