Off to Grandparent Camp

The Grandparent Camp, 2015 troop at the camp's site at Lakefield College School in Selwyn, Ontario.
The Grandparent Camp, 2015 troop at the camp’s site at Lakefield College School in Selwyn, Ontario.

By Joel Wittnebel/Active Senior’s Digest

The idea seems odd, and for Jonathan Nyquist, director of NYQUEST Camps, he admits it was a hard sell at the start.

“It was hard to market the program at first,” he says, laughing as he remembers the odd reactions from those when he attended trade shows to advertise the idea.

However, since that original initiation five years ago, Grandparents Camp has become a resounding success and interest has been growing significantly since its inception, Nyquist says.

“There’s not a lot of programming available that’s for grandparents and grandchildren together, especially like a vacation, or adventure-vacation type experiences,” he says. “It’s just worked out really well.”

Pauline Girling and her four grandchildren look forward to the weekend away every year.
Pauline Girling and her four grandchildren look forward to the weekend away every year.

NYQUEST operates various family-oriented camps and was looking to fill a hole in the market with a program catering to active seniors.

“Grandparents are more active, healthier, living longer lives and they saw this program to be very successful,” he says.

It was also seen as a chance for grandparents to escape with their grandkids, without the parents.

“(Parents) are getting really hands-on and creating all these rules and grandparents can get frustrated,” Nyquist says. “It was an opportunity for the grandparents to really bond with the grandkids in an environment away from the parents.”

The camp, held at the Lakefield College School, a prestigious boarding school outside of Peterborough is open to grandparents with grandchildren between the ages of 2 and 14. NYQUEST, using staff from around the world, host a three-day camp at the end of July and a two-day program at the start of August.

Though only a short trip, Nyquist says that doesn’t detract from the experience.

“It’s only a short program, but it’s extremely powerful for making memories and developing the bond,” he says. “They’re going to feel really taken in by a community of other grandparents that have a similar attachment to their grandkids and an interest in really connecting with their lives.”

Pauline Girling has been a frequent attendee at the camp with her five grandchildren and says the family anticipates the vacation every year.
“They look forward to all being together, to renewing friendships with other returning grandparent campers, and especially to meeting up again with the incredible group of counsellors with whom my grandchildren now share a special bond,” she says.

Girling and her longtime husband retired from their home in Bermuda six years ago and moved to Oakville in order to be closer to their family, and build a bond with their grandkids.

After tossing around other plans for trips and vacations with each of her grandkids, Girling came across the Lakefield Grandparent Camp online.

“I just knew it was the kind of experience that I wanted to share with my grandkids – and the kind of true ‘away from home’ camp experience that they would thoroughly enjoy too,” she says.

Nyquist says the Lakefield location offers the best of both worlds in the comforts of a resort paired with the natural world just a step away.

Activities include everything from fishing, canoeing and sports to arts and crafts and scavenger hunts.  Different activities offer a chance for grandparents and grandchild to take part together and also for grandchildren alone, offering grandparents a chance to relax.

Activities aside, Girling says the camp is a chance to have simple and organic interactions with her grandchildren.

“It’s sharing in a sense of complete freedom with my grandkids when we’re at camp – there’s simply no hierarchy between Grandma and grandkids,” she says. “When we are there taking part together in all the activities, we just play and play and laugh and laugh. Our ability to communicate when we’re all together that weekend is really extra special.”

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