Although there were very few children’s camps in the 1930s, a small group of camp visionaries took it upon themselves to meet regularly to discuss issues of common concern, such as the importance of offering a well-balanced program, providing a good diet, properly maintaining tents, cabins and docks, developing an appreciation for our environment (e.g., lakes and forests) and building character. These issues still have relevance in today’s camp community. At the time, the forefathers of Ontario’s camp movement operated privately owned camps, but due to the fact that their backgrounds included time spent at the YMCA, YWCA and Canadian Girls In Training (CGIT), they were quick to include agencies and churches that operated children’s camps too. As this group of camp professionals grew so did their vision, and as such, in 1932, the Ontario Camping Association (OCA) was formed.
With the post-war baby boom, the number of camps in Ontario multiplied rapidly and the OCA grew accordingly. For thousands of children, camp became an integral part of growing up. Besides traditional programming, camps began to offer special programs, like: extended canoe trips into Canada’s north; camps specializing in hockey, drama, horseback riding and swimming, just to name a few; camps for inner city youth, as well as children with cancer and other special needs.
Throughout the OCA’s first 80 years in existence, the diversity amongst its members has expanded, which is why each of its more than 400 camps is extremely unique in its own right. In fact, the huge diversity that exists amongst OCA member camps is one of the association’s strengths. Our camps are large and small, co-ed or single gender, located in remote settings or downtown buildings, use rustic or modern facilities, offer specialized or general programs, and serve a broad spectrum of special needs.
With more than 600 members (approximately 400 accredited camps and 200 individual and commercial members), the OCA is much larger than our founders ever imagined. However, we have not lost sight of our primary goal: to enable children to learn new skills, make new friends and have fun in a safe, healthy and caring environment.
We are moving towards our centenary with both the anticipation and purpose of continuing to provide children and parents with a variety of quality summer camps.
For more information on the history of the OCA please visit our archives at: Trent University Archives
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