The volunteers that bring Backyard Camp to life each day wear many hats. Some pitch in on the Backyard Camp website and newsletters, others lend their expertise toward promoting the camp on social media or working with our partners. Parents and caregivers also play a critical role, to prepare and manage Backyard Camp activities for their kids each day. Yet, if you view Backyard Camp as a car made of many parts, "The Teachers" are really the drivetrain that powers the program.
Franny Schwartz, Rebecca Dankevy and Kim Bernbaum, aka "The Teachers", are all parents and teachers at elementary public schools within the Greater Toronto Area and hold leadership positions within their respective boards. So it's not surprising this adept trio comes in handy when volunteering to plan and curate Backyard Camp's activities programming each week. Their talents are something I can attest to. Shortly after Backyard Camp came to life in late spring, I sat in on one of their weekly planning meetings. I witnessed a master class in efficiency, communication and organization skills that made my head spin a little. The trio worked together as one, deftly plucking Backyard Camp activities from a seemingly endless list of options within the Backyard Camp database. The three then categorized each activity by age and interests and readied the final activities list for promotion in Backyard Camp's newsletters communications, website and social media channels.
We'd set the meeting for an hour. The teachers wrapped it up in 20 minutes. Then again, they were motivated.
"I was approached by Mark and thought it was a wonderful idea. The uncertainty of camp and lack of programs for children was a stressful idea for myself and others I knew," says Rebecca. I wanted to help create a fun and memorable summer for kids and adults, even during the pandemic."
Rebecca and Franny should know. Both women went to overnight camp north of Toronto as kids, attending Camp Northland in Haliburton, Ontario for many summers, which left a lasting impression into adulthood. "My camp experiences provided me with so much more than just fun," Rebecca recalls. "I created wonderful memories, lasting friendships, leadership skills and independence."
Like so many of us, Franny cherishes an indelible impression of the overnight camp experience, which resonates through to today and is a fundamental aspect of Backyard Camp. "Turning memorable activities into programming ideas for a new generation is exciting and nostalgic," she says. That said, pulling together a brand new version of Backyard Camp each week comes with its challenges. The teachers aren't sure what resources parents and caregivers have access to, so they try to provide a wide range of programmings suggestions based on resources most people have around the house. "We're also aware that some participants may not have access to backyards, so many activities can be adapted for inside fun," Franny adds.
Beyond Backyard Camp's encouraging participation numbers, the teachers say they've received emails from parents with positive feedback about the accessibility and breadth of programming Backyard Camp provides. The proof is really in the pudding. The collective efforts of all the volunteers to bring the camp to life have been worth it.
Rebecca Dankevy: 3 kids: Ethan (15), Lilah (13), Ryan (8)
Kim Bernbaum: 3 kids: Braden (15), Cole (13), Ella (9)
Franny Schwartz: 2 kids: Madeleine (17), Evan (15)