Director’s Update – April 2021

Dear Wabun Family,

For the past many months the Wabun leadership team has worked to clear a trail toward summer that would allow us to offer the immersive Wabun wilderness experience so many campers, staff, and alumni have found formative and freeing. For the past many months you have empowered us to advocate for your children and honestly communicate with you where we stand and what we face. The tenacity with which you have gone the distance with us and the generosity with which you have gifted us the time we have needed to try our best to make 2021 a go is profoundly moving and speaks to your belief in the power of wilderness experiences, the likes of which Wabun strives to offer our young people. We are beyond grateful for your trust and perseverance. Today, it is with much sadness that I write to share news of Wabun’s decision not to open for the 2021 season. 

Throughout this year we have seen in our young people a craving for deep connection with kindred souls, we have heard their call to step outside of their comfort and exercise their courage, we have felt their longing to lean into the wind and rest in the rhythm of nature. It has been in an effort to offer a Wabun experience that endeavors to meet those needs and, we believe with whole-hearts, strengthens the well-being of our young people that we, the leadership team, have pursued every option we could imagine to safely bring campers north and run the season full of paddle strokes, portage trails, and powerful transformation that your children deserve. We know that it is for your young people that you, our Wabun family, have held onto hope with us and invested in the prospect of a season for your children rich in clear blue dawns, crimson sunsets, and confidence borne of competence.

We stand together now at the dawn of May. The recent and rapid rise in COVID cases and the restrictions enacted in Ontario last week have presented new and significant barriers in addition to those we already faced. Always at the forefront of our minds and guiding all of our choices is Wabun’s commitment to safeguarding the well-being not just of our campers and staff, but also of our community, our friends, our neighbors, our Wabun family on both sides of the border- across the continent and across the lake. At our leadership meeting we assessed the new information, evaluated the potential impact on our program and on our people and asked ourselves could we still do it? Could we open camp? If the case numbers subside… could we? If the variants keep in check… could we? If the vaccines start to roll out right… could we? If we receive operational guidance from the Ministry of Health… could we? If overnight camps are permitted to open…  could we? If the ban on Crown Land camping lifts… could we? If our border exemption appeal is approved…  could we? If we could just hold on a little longer… could we? 

Oddly enough, the very reason we have worked so hard to prepare for a 2021 season is a major reason why we ultimately made the decision not to open for the 2021 season. After a lot of “could we” we simply asked “should we?”. The leadership team circled back to the central reason we run camp – our core belief in the value of strengthening well-being through immersive wilderness experiences in which young people connect deeply with one another and with the wild spaces in which they travel. Given the impact of last week’s regulations on top of the challenges outlined in earlier emails, and the limited time remaining before July, we came to the decision that we can no longer, in good conscience, move forward towards a Wabun summer that is uncertain at best, and increasingly unsettling to our local community, especially knowing that with each passing day comes the cost of lost opportunities for our campers and staff to pursue alternate, more concrete plans and hopefully access programs that offer deep connections and take them into the solace of wild places and the steadying pace of nature closer to home. When it comes down to it, young people should be together in wild places this summer. We can no longer allow a Wabun “could be” to preclude what “should be”.  

Though we are confident our decision is the right one, please know it was incredibly difficult to make. Summers at Wabun are nothing short of magical and to have been unable to offer young people the chance to travel in uncomplicated ways through unparalleled territory for two years now is heartbreaking. What grounds me is that for nine decades, Wabun red canoes have been privileged to paddle the deep waters of Temagami and call home for the summer ancient stands of pine and groves of cedar expertly stewarded by the TemeAugama Anishnabai people. The relationships grown on Wabun canoe trips endure, adventures live on in the memories of alumni, the desire to ensure this rare opportunity will be around for 90 years to come is kindled in the hearts of the Wabun Family. We will paddle Lake Temagami’s waters again. 

Years of canoe tripping have taught me that in enduring challenges together we strengthen our connection. Though some of you have never set foot on Garden Island, and some of you I have not even met yet, I feel like we have been through a lot together this year! Regardless of whether or not you have been affiliated with Wabun for 50 years or 5 days, you are equally part of the Wabun Family and I am here for you. Over the coming weeks I will be reaching out to connect with you about logistics, next steps, and ways in which we will seek to keep the Wabun fires burning as we navigate what lies around the next bend in the river. Please do not hesitate to give a call if you have any questions or if I can be of help in any way. Thank you, and take good care.



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