If the wide-eyed, cheery expression that pops on Rachelle Lowe's face every time you ask a question about her experience at Tim Hortons summer camp doesn't tell you how much she valued her experience, then nothing will.
The 12-year-old, along with fellow Neepawa youth Abbey McLeod, recently spent just over a week of the summer at Tim Horton Onondaga Farms in St. George, Ont. The pair were chosen to be sponsored to go to the Kids Camp through a selection process at Neepawa's Tim Hortons.
“You can tell they got a lot out of the experience,” Neepawa Tim Hortons owner Anthony Chwaluk said. “That's great. It's why we're so excited when we get a chance to have kids from Neepawa go to these camps.”
And when you talk to Rachelle, you can see that excitement build as she recollects the activities and fun outings she had at the camp – including rope walks, archery, swimming, spending time with barn animals, music classes, campfires, and an overnight camping trip away from the main farm.
But, as she explains, the experience was more than simply about having a fun time.
The daily meal menu featured healthy food and focused on showing the youth how healthy food can still make for great tasting meals.
“It was really neat, they had a person there whose job was just to pick the healthy food to eat,” Rachelle explained.
The Tim Hortons Kids Camps also put a priority focus on building leadership skills in youth. Rachelle, who is already an outgoing individual, found that to be one of her favourite parts of the week.
"They had Great Beads – beads that they gave you throughout the week as the counsellors watched you show different leadership skills, or for friendship, thinking of the environment, or creativity – there were all different kinds of colours,” Rachelle excitedly explained.
“Then you get to make a bracelet at the end that you keep.”
The youth also returned home with scrapbooks of their experience, and hundreds of photos.
They made friends, some potential pen pals, and even had the odd interesting interactions with their cabinmates.
“It was weird. I told some people I was from Neepawa, Manitoba and they didn't know what Manitoba was,” Rachelle explained with a polite chuckle. “There were kids there with all kinds of personalities, which I liked.”
For Rachelle's mom, Jennifer Simon, that immersion with all of those different personalities and youth from different backgrounds was exactly what she was hoping for her daughter to get out of the experience.
“That's what we want for our kids, that worldly experience,” Simon explained. “To venture out and meet all of those different kind of people and not be scared; that's a big deal for kids at this age. And when they came back, they were like a family.
“It was a great thing,” Simon added of her daughter being chosen for the summer outing. “It was a real gift to our family.”
Funds raised during Tim Hortons' annual Kids Camp Day sales help to support sending local kids like Rachelle and Abbey to these camps.