Tim Hortons Camp Day forges ahead for first ever e-camp
SUDBURY -- It may be a bit later than normal, but the nation's largest fast-food retailer went ahead with its largest charity fundraiser of the year.
Tim Hortons locations across the country are celebrating the annual Camp Day. Normally held on the first Wednesday in June, the pandemic did cause a delay as the camp organizers had to figure out, quickly, what the 2020 season was going to look like.
"When the pandemic hit in the spring we knew we weren't going to be able to have kids out to camp like we'd normally do and one option I guess we could have had is I guess let them know that we'll be back with them when we can safely open again, but we weren't comfortable with that," said Dave Newnham, the president and executive director of Tim Hortons Foundation Camps.
The Tim Hortons Foundation Camps traditionally work to provide a summer camping experience for children between the ages of 12 to 16 from low income households. With social gatherings limited due to the pandemic, Newnham says they have adopted what they are calling an 'E-Camp' for 2020, citing a need to provide support for youth who he says are seeing significant mental health struggles during this time.
"The isolation, the sort of all well being, impact for them and their overall wellness is significant and we wanted to find a way to bring the elements of camp to them," said Newnham. "We thought we could do in an online format; all the social and emotional skills, all the sense of belonging, the connection with peers and camp councillors and so we decided to create an online camp."
The camp is already running, for a total of 8 weeks ending at the end of August. Camp Day is a vital fundraiser for the foundation, seeing 100 per cent of all hot and iced coffee sales donated toward it.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has largely put a halt on additional fundraisers many restaurant owners hold, staff in Sudbury say it was important to do what they could for the cause.
"We're still doing all the same stuff, selling the bracelets and all that, but of course there's no petting zoo like they do sometimes so it's a little different this year, but we still want to do it because it's the biggest fundraiser of the year for Tim Hortons," said Connor Trainor, an employee at Sudbury's Barrydowne Road and the Kingsway location.
Peace Akintade is a former camper. Moving to Canada at a young age, she credits her first experience at a Tim Hortons Camp at the age of 12 for helping her come out of her shell.
"You get to go on different activities and challenges with people who you have never met before in your life," said Akintade. "You have to know about teamwork and about leadership from them so it really shaped me into becoming someone, I can look at a stranger and say that we have something in common and I can connect with you."
One of her fondest memories is having a venue to showcase her talents, something all attendees are able to participate in. Now directing stage productions in Western Canada, it was at Tim Hortons camp that she had her first audience.
"By buying that coffee, you're helping a child have a story like mine," said Akintade. "Coming from a disadvantaged circumstances, sometimes we can't be a kid. Sometimes we're helping our parents or we're helping our siblings and we never get to experience horseback riding or canoeing, or kayaking or having kids our age so buying something as simple as a coffee and being able to save a kids life, it fills you with warmth."
Other local activities that were largely called off include a tradition that sees many locations inviting out celebrity guests so help serve customers. But, that didn't stop Pure Country 91.7 from setting up shop outside to lend its airwaves as support.
Josh Corbett from Pure country said "I can recall, I was actually one of those kids growing up that my parents could not afford to send me to camp so I can only imagine the joy from some of these kids who get the opportunity to go to camp thanks to Tim Hortons Foundation Camps."