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The legend of Camp Smitty

Published June 09, 2023 09:00

Meet The Camp Smitty LegendIt’s for the kids!

Ask any past or current camper, Camp Smitty is a life-changing place. It offers a beautiful lakefront setting, dynamic programming, and a safe, welcoming and fun environment for all. But it takes a person with a kind and gentle soul, someone who is a pure spirit, embodies everything BGC Ottawa stands for, and most importantly, truly believes in the magic of Camp Smitty, to make it a special place in the hearts of campers and staff alike.

That person is Carl McAllister, otherwise known as ‘The Camp Legend’.

I’d like to share a story or two about my dear friend Carl, who I’ve had the pleasure of knowing for more than 30 years. Carl is my role model. He’s the reason I work at the Club. Everything I do, I gauge what he would do. And that’s the truth.

Not too many people can live up to such an infamous nickname, but Carl isn’t many people. He has a youthful presence that is unmatched – courageous, but thoughtful at the same time. He is so positive and always does the right thing for the organization and for the kids.

Carl started his journey with BGC Ottawa at the age of 12 when he met Fred McCann, one of the Club’s Founding Father’s and its first Executive Director. McCann invited Carl to the Boys Club where he had the opportunity to meet life-long friends and take part in various social programs. Like many youths, Carl would travel to Camp Minwassin – known today as Camp Smitty – a place that would forever change his life.

At Camp Smitty Carl could be himself. Like hundreds of campers each summer, he was challenged to reach new heights, develop new skills and to find his purpose in life. It brought him a sense of self-worth, made him a part of the community, and allowed him to share his special gift of connecting with others. Over the years, both as a camper and volunteer, Carl fell in love with Camp Smitty and the people who make it ‘home’.

Every barrier-free opportunity and every friendship made along the shores of Mink Lake are thanks to people like you – donors who wholeheartedly believe kids matter, just like Carl. If you have the means to do so, please help us give children and youth across Ottawa the opportunity to experience everything Camp Smitty has to offer.

As a volunteer, Carl lives and breathes his motto – ‘It’s for the kids!’

Carl is wonderful with each camper who visits Camp Smitty. He’s the first person to lend an ear when a child is sad or scared. He’ll sit and talk to them about anything for as long as they need to help them through a rough time. Carl is not afraid to share some of his camp experiences with them, or a BGC Ottawa memory that kids might find funny, or even inspiring. He’s just a very, very kind spirit.

Like many first-time campers, Carl was in awe when he walked along the shoreline of Mink Lake, felt the sand beneath his feet and dipped his toes in the water. It’s like he immediately became one with his natural surroundings.

The lake quickly became one of Carl’s favourite places at Camp Smitty. As a camper, you’d often find Carl, fishing rod in hand, sitting on the rock with the flagpole, living his best life. As a volunteer, he’s able to share his passion and love of the sport with generation after generation of kids. Carl has made that rock an inclusive place, almost a place of refuge, for others, but it is also his safe place.

Carl makes opening-night campfires memorable each year. He has a way of bringing everyone together by telling the scariest stories – full disclosure, they aren’t that scary. But it’s not the stories that stick with everyone, it’s how he brings everyone together. He’s authentic, caring, and just likes to make others happy. But that’s Carl – always putting the kids first.

Camp Smitty, like BGC Ottawa, changed Carl’s life and created memories to last a lifetime. And after more than 60 years, Camp – and the kids – still hold a special place in his heart.

It costs more than $500,000 to open the gates of Camp Smitty each year. And thanks to generous donations from people who believe ‘it’s for the kids’, BGC Ottawa can deeply subsidize fees – even cover the entire cost of camp – to ensure no child or youth is left behind.

All children who can benefit from Camp Smitty are welcome, regardless of their financial situation. But we can’t do it without you! Any amount you can give will make a difference. Help children and youth from throughout Ottawa spend 10 incredible days at Camp Smitty this summer.

On behalf of Carl and everyone at BGC Ottawa, thank you!

Your friend and Camp Smitty believer,

Tim Boisvert
Ron Kolbus Clubhouse Manager

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