Kelly Kavanagh remembers camping trips with her parents and five siblings as the typical family getaway when she was younger. For Barbara James, her connections to nature in her youth were filled with memories of the beautiful countryside around Vancouver and long bike rides and hikes through the majesty of that city’s famed Stanley Park.
Lloyd Hetherington has his fond memories too: driving the countryside in his father's homemade campervan or sleeping under a canvas in the African or Canadian wilderness.
When prompted, most anyone has their own experience in nature to share and these three residents from The Village of Riverside Glen, along with several others and three team members, had the opportunity to reconnect with forests and fresh air when they visited Shady Pines Campground in September. Every year, the Village strives for at least one visit to the campground outside of the small village of Ailsa Craig, where the three brothers who operate Schlegel Villages once trampled through the woods as boys and planted trees with their grandfather.
The campground property was in the Schlegel family for many years before it changed hands but in 2016, the family was able to repurchase it with the intention of redeveloping the grounds into a fully accessible refuge for people of all ages and abilities.
Riverside Glen and several other Schlegel Villages have enjoyed the peace and comfort of the Shady Pines firepit and the good humour and music of general manager Bernie Burnett in the past four seasons. Riverside Glen began planning this trip immediately following their last in the fall of 2019.
Of course, COVID-19 raised several challenges this summer, but the team and residents both committed to safe distancing and precautions so they could step away from the new normal under the pandemic, and they weren’t disappointed.
“It was such a beautiful spot,” says Kelly; “stunning.”
Music around the fire was certainly a highlight, and Lloyd suggests Bernie as a musician and camp guide “is everybody’s friend.”
“It was a true camping trip with that music,” Barbara says, but there was nothing they didn’t enjoy about the day. The team went to great lengths to ensure everybody was safe and all were able to participate fully, the group says, despite any physical limitations.
That, Kelly says, is an extension of the Schlegel philosophy the team adheres to every day in Village life and something she admires in the family she’s come to know. “They are a class act,” Kelly says, when asked about the Schlegel family. “They have trained everybody, if you will, to care.”
“The family’s philosophy is people first and foremost,” Lloyd adds. “How can we make their world just a bit better and the camp was a classic example.”
Kadri Phillips is a recreation team member who has been part of the annual trips for the past three years and she says it’s an honour to spend time getting to know residents on an entirely new level, strengthening the relationships that matter so much in Village life. She was joined by recreation supervisor Joelle Duchaine and neighbourhood coordinator Louisa McMaster.
“It’s absolutely amazing to be able to do that,” says Kadri,” who studied outdoor education before focusing on recreation. “It was very interesting to be able to put the two together and spend that time in the outdoors and in nature just enjoying the scenery and each other’s company.”
Next time, the group is hoping the accessible cabins will be complete and the group will stay overnight, singing under the stars by the crackle of the fire.