The Easter Seals camp near Shawnigan Lake, which has been operation each summer since the 1970s, will not be offering camping programs for kids with disabilities in 2018.
Charlene Krepiakevich is the president and CEO of Easter Seals BC/Yukon, also known as the BC Lions Society for Children with Disabilities, which owns and operates the camp.
She said there is not enough money for the organization to offer its annual programs at two of its three summer camps in B.C. in 2018.
The other facility that will have its summer programs suspended next year is Camp Squamish, located north of Vancouver.
“We are a charity and we rely on funding from individuals, foundations, corporations and governments for our programs,” Krepiakevich said.
“We have no other revenue. No one wants to suspend programs and operations that we all love and the board takes any decision like this very seriously. But the financial supports that we rely on are just not there for 2018.”
Easter Seals BC/Yukon began providing free overnight summer camping experiences for children and teens with physical and/or mental disabilities throughout British Columbia in 1968.
Camp Winfield, located in the Okanagan Valley, was the first to open that year, followed by Camp Squamish which opened in 1976, and Camp Shawnigan which opened its doors in 1979.
Krepiakevich said Camp Winfield will offer its full summer schedule of programs in 2018, and she expects the facility should have the capacity this year for extra youngsters from families with children with disabilities in the Cowichan Valley.
“But we will have to wait and see exactly what the demand there will be this summer before any final decisions are made,” she said.
“There are no plans to permanently close Camp Shawnigan and Camp Squamish, but we’re taking 2018 to determine the best use of the facilities. We’re not alone in this as many charities across Canada are struggling financially.”
Mike Smith, a member of the Malahat Lions Club, said he’s “very concerned” about plans not to have camping programs at Camp Shawnigan this year.
He said he has a daughter with Down’s syndrome and programs that are offered at Camp Shawnigan every summer are very important for kids with disabilities.
Smith, who is a businessman, said he has contacted Easter Seals BC/Yukon to determine if he could join its board of directors.
“This is a wonderful organization and a wonderful group of people, and I appreciate that it’s a charity and the money is not there for all its programs in 2018,” he said.
“But I’m very concerned that the organization is now chipping away at its programs, beginning with this one-year closure. There must be a way to bring in more funds from government, corporations and other sources and I want to be part of the process and help where I can.”