Culture Change Campout Draws Neighbours and Team Members Together

St. Clair’s 2nd Annual camping trip worth every ounce of effort

By Kristian Partington

Shortly after the culture change campers from the Village at St. Clair in Windsor arrived under the tall canopy of trees at the Willowood Carefree RV Resort outside of Amherstburg on Sept. 7, Doc Wright led the way to the pool. 

Doc Wright standing in a splash pad

Doc, one of the first residents (or neighbours as the village prefers) to move into the long-term care village when it opened two years ago, was an eager participant in the inaugural Culture Change Campout last year, so he knew his way around the campground. Fully clothed, Doc walked straight towards the splash-pad where a little boy was running through the various jet streams and misting gates and, without missing a step, he walked right into it.

The little boy looked up, a little astonished, and Doc looked down and smiled. Together they played for at least 15 minutes.

For the team members from the village who’ve spent countless hours preparing for this event, which brought 10 neighbours to the campsite for an overnight adventure, the smile on Doc’s face is what it’s all about. Soon the other neighbours were splashing around in the pool and for some it was the first time doing so since their much younger days.

Neighbour Susie Desmarais would later say doing handstands in the shallows of the pool was one of her favourite parts of the trip – that and singing songs around the campfire late into the night. 

Resident and Team member sitting outside on a bench, smiling and laughing

 “It brings back memories for  them and it gives them new  memories,” said personal  support worker Barbara Masse,  when asked why she chose to  volunteer to support the  neighbours a second time on  the campout. She was sitting  upon a large, two-seater tricycle  beside 85-year-old Charlotte  Bautista after they finished  breakfast around the bonfire pit,  preparing to go for a ride around the campground.

“It makes my heart happy,” she said. She knew after last year there’d be little sleep for the team and lots of work to ensure everyone had the support they needed, but she’d do it again in a second.

Charlotte looked over to Barbara and with a broad smile said “it’s the people,” that make the adventure so enjoyable. There’s fellowship, Charlotte said, and even if challenges arise, which they’ll inevitably do when you bring 10 people requiring various levels of support camping, the group works it out together.

The night before under the black sky, team members Noel Erum and Brett McCloi watched everyone singing together around the bonfire they thought might not have happened a mere two hours before when a mid-evening thunderstorm shook the sky above the grounds.

The togetherness is what stood out for Brett as his favourite part of the experience. “It’s about experiencing something new and spending quality time and getting to know (the neighbours) better,” he says. Sure, it’s a lot of work, but it’s more than worth it.

Neighbour Audrey Thompson, who could often be seen sitting quietly in her motorized wheelchair with a shawl over her shoulders and a content smile upon her face, echoed what Brett and so many others said when asked what she liked most about her time at the campground.   

Residents and Team Members in a group photo outside of their cabin

“I just enjoy being with people,” she said. “I enjoyed watching the people swimming in the pool and the fire was wonderful – I was mesmerized, looking at it and looking at it and wanting more logs in.”

For the team, that sense of enjoyment is what it’s all about and as they were packing up, preparing to head back to the village, they were already talking about how to makes next year’s event even better.