Kathy says the best parts of her trip to Camp Schlegel at Shady Pines in the early fall of 2018 were the trails that wound through the campground and the roaring bonfire, complete with camp songs led by the camp’s manager, Bernie Burnett.
“The trails were great,” Kathy says. “They weren’t mushy or gushy to ride on in my wheelchair. I enjoyed the outdoors and I enjoyed Bernie around the campfire.”
Kathy was among several residents from The Village of Glendale Crossing who had the opportunity to visit the camp during several trips since the Schlegel family purchased the property in early 2016. Sitting on more than 100 acres of lovely woods in the soft rolling hills outside the small community of Ailsa Craig, Shady Pines has deep roots within the Schlegel Family. Wilfred Schlegel purchased the land in the early 1970s, picturing a place where nature could reinvigorate the souls of people caught up in the fast pace of a modernizing world. His grandsons – Rob, Brad and Jamie, who each play key roles in the operation of Schlegel Villages today – still recall planting some of the trees throughout the property that now reach high into the country air to shade the campers.
The site did change hands since those tree planting days, but the family was able to bring it back under their umbrella with the intention of making it an accessible place where people of all ages and abilities can take part in Wilfred’s vision.
Residents and team members from Glendale Crossing have visited several times, thanks to the camp’s close proximity to London, but other villages have taken advantage as well.
The Village of Riverside Glen travelled from Guelph last summer and was able to manage an overnight stay, despite the fact that construction hasn’t yet started on the accessible cabins that will soon line the outer edge of the large pond at the camp.
Doug Wigood is a neighbourhood coordinator at Riverside Glen, and was elated when the idea was first proposed of taking residents to Shady Pines for an overnight camping trip. Camping, he says, has always brought him happiness and joy. To share the experience with nine residents and some fellow team members allowed him to share that passion with those he serves.
“We were able to sit around as a small community and share marshmallows and sing songs and I was able to bring my dog with me,” Doug says. “There were a whole bunch of mouths to feed around this campfire.”
For Doug, one of the most memorable aspects of the trip was the fact that the team was able to provide a comfortable place for a long-term care resident named Rick to sleep in outside in a tent upon a cot – something that for most long-term care residents can seem far out of reach.
“I can’t tell you how many times he’s thanked me for taking him and letting him sleep outside one last time,” Doug says.
The vision for Camp Schlegel at Shady Pines is to eventually have three fully accessible cabins built on site, which will allow people of all abilities to take advantage of the site. If all goes to plan, construction on the first will begin late in 2019.
For now, Riverside Glen and Glendale Crossing have shown that anything is possible with a little ambition and the right collaboration between residents and team members.
Kathy says she looks forward to another visit this year.
“I’d recommend Shady Pines to anybody who likes the outdoors and enjoys singing camp songs by the campfire,” she says.
For more information on Shady Pines, please visit the website here.