Camper Guide - YMCA of Three Rivers Waterloo Region

Camper Guide

At YMCA Camps of Three Rivers

We intentionally support and nurture a mutually respectful environment which ensures that everyone at camp—regardless of age, cultural background, ethnicity, race, socioeconomic status, religious beliefs, gender/gender identity, or sexual orientation—feels welcome, connected and safe at camp.

While recognizing the rights of all participants, we aim to empower everyone- campers, leadership trainees, staff members - to fully and meaningfully participate in our camps, and to develop to their fullest potential.

Our camps embrace diversity, reflect the needs of the communities that we serve, and strive to ensure inclusion, engagement, and enrichment for all.


Important planning before camp starts:

Registration & Payments

Refunds and Cancellations

If your require cancellation or a refund, please speak with the camp office at 519-699-5100 or

Your CampBrain Account 

Double check your child's registration dates

Check your calendar to see if the dates that you plan to send your child to camp are the same as are listed in our system. (We have campers arrive for the wrong session at least twice a summer...please double check!) If you have an issue with your child's registration, the sooner you contact us, the better the chance of us being able to accommodate your change. Please call us ASAP if you have an issue. 519-699-5100

Check your payment information

Most of our parents pay a deposit at registration and indicate for us to charge the same credit card with the remainder of the payment due on June 1. If you are one of these payers, you should expect to receive a reminder email prior to June 1, indicating that your payment will be automatically processed on June 1. This email will have the final four numbers of your card. Please double check the number at that time and make sure it's still current, and if not, please give us a call 519-699-5100 with your updated information.  If you have paid in full before June 1st you will not receive this reminder email.


Completing and Updating Forms Online

Online Forms, Requests, and Permissions/Acknowledgements

Parents had the opportunity to complete necessary information the day they registered and arranged payment. Since for many, that was back in January, we would like you to...

Please log into your account, and double check the following information:

Health Form

If you have already completed this form, reviewing and updating it will ensure that we are getting the most up-to-date information about the health and any special requirements to make your child's stay with us the best it can be.


Camp Tuck Shop


In our ongoing quest to encourage and model healthy living and eating choices, our camps will limit the number of times, and the amount of snack food items campers may purchase during the session.


Prices vary from year to year, but generally, prices for camp gear are:

• Wab crested camper t-shirts and hats, about $15
• Water bottles, $10 - $25
• Stuffed mascots, about $12 
• Paddles for paddle making at Wab are approximately $30 - $35, and can be purchased at camp

Most of these items, and also some additional gear, can be purchased ahead of time. See the information about our Online Tuck Below

Arranging Money for Tuck at Camp

We strongly encourage all parents to arrange for tuck money online, beforSE Ne your child goes to camp, rather than sending cash with your camper. This can be easily done at our online tuck shop (see below). 

PLEASE NOTE: Refunds will be processed back to your credit card only for amounts over $5. Leftover tuck money less than $5 will be donated directly to the Camp Fund, to help send kids to camp.

Online Tuck Shop

You may purchase camp gear online, and we will ship it to your home ahead of camp, or, for no shipping cost, we will have it waiting for your child at camp.  (crested gear specific to 2018 is not yet available)  We also sell sleeping bags, rain gear, and other items.

We encourage campers to buy their camp gear directly from our website prior to their arrival at camp.  In order to avoid shipping fees, you can indicate "pick up at camp" and we will have your child's order ready for his or her arrival.

Use the following link for these purchases, and to arrange tuck money for your child at camp.


Getting Here

214 Bethune Road, North,
Huntsville, Ontario

Please do not come to camp before 10:30 a.m. We are busy cleaning and preparing for the arrival of new campers, and we won't be able to provide a proper welcome.



Getting Ready for Camp

Camp is awesome!girls on dock holding kayak blades

...and for those who have already discovered that, and even for many first timers, the anticipation while counting down the days is sweet and over the top exciting, too!

That's how we hope our campers arrive...ready, willing and brimming with excitement to embrace all that our camps have to offer!  

Of course, some jitters are absolutely normal too, so here are a few suggestions for you and your child while planning for camp, to make your child's arrival and time at camp as smooth and positive as possible.

  • Speak positively and enthusiastically about camp, and assume that your child will have a great time and meet new friends. (If you have serious concerns or issues, please discuss them with us, not your child.) 
  • Begin organizing and packing for camp early and keep stress at home to a minimum before the beginning of camp, so your child arrives relaxed and happy, rather than hurried and stressed with last minute packing and organizing.
  • Make a point of spending some quality time with your child before camp starts. He or she will be less likely to long for your individual attention if they enjoyed a good dose before starting camp.  
  • Express confidence in his or her independence, while discussing the roles of our counsellors, as kind, fun and helpful.  Also, please stress to your child to discuss anything at all he or she needs help with, and our counsellors will reiterate this at camp. 
  • View the website information with your child, and discuss how your child is feeling about the upcoming camping experience. Find out what he or she is most excited about, and worried about. 
  • If your child has never slept away before, arrange for a sleepover at the home of a friend or relative 

Potential Homesickness

  • Without dwelling on it, discuss potential homesickness with your child - assure him or her that it's perfectly normal to miss home a bit while away - and discuss ways of coping.  He or she can write a letter home, describing all the great things about camp, bring a special toy or photo, and most of all, ask the counsellor for help. In fact, this is good advice in all situations, not just homesickness.  Be sure your child knows that our counsellors are caring individuals who want to make sure your child has the best time possible.
  • Try to send an email on the first day of camp, rather than waiting a day or two.  Campers really seem to enjoy that almost-immediate connection to home as the first busy day at camp begins to wind down.  
  • Resist telling your child he or she can come home, or call home if they get homesick.  In our experience, a conversation with a homesick child is very difficult the parent and the child. In most cases, once the child has phoned home,the homesick feelings are intensified and and it's more difficult to regain any of the success he or she has already achieved.  Your approach to this conversation should assume that your child will be successful, while still letting them know that you take their concerns seriously.

Homesickness and the Role of our Counsellors

We recognize how very important the care and interaction provided by our counsellors and staff is in ensuring that the cabin and entire camp atmosphere is welcoming and nurturing, and of course, busy and packed with fun, action and adventure.  

Our counsellors and support staff are trained, first and foremost, to best meet the physical and emotional needs of kids away from home. They recognize the delicate balance and great value of encouraging the campers to learn to do both routine and new things for themselves, while ensuring the expectations are reasonable and not overwhelming. Beyond these basic needs, we focus on fun, physical activity in the great outdoors, and the experience and benefits of learning new skills, meeting new friends and enjoying the feeling of being part of the inherently community-minded setting a camp provides.  They are completely aware of the need to provide the right amount of individual attention, to help ease into the cabin group and camp environment.

We recognize that each child is an individual and each situation is different. We are quite willing to help your child cope with homesickness and to realize the great value of successful completion of the camp session.

More Resources

What to Bring 

We recommend that you pack old rather than new clothes. Please keep expensive, special or favourite clothes at home. You might consider packing a nice set of clothes for the end of session banquet but it is definitely not mandatory.

PFDs and Whistles

Wabanaki campers need to bring their own properly fitting Personal Floatation Device to camp. All PFDs at our camps must have a pea-less whistle (eg. Fox 40) attached. If your child's PFD arrives at camp without a whistle, we will attach one and charge $5.00 to their tuck account.

When purchasing a PFD please consider these points:

  • It must be comfortable and allow unrestricted movement, especially important on a canoe trip when the camper will be wearing it for most of the day
  • Make sure it fits properly; if it doesn't fit properly, it won't work properly
  • Choose a brightly coloured PFD rather than dark green or blue
  • Be sure to clearly mark the PFD with your child's name to be sure it makes it home at the end of the session.

We are pleased to offer Salus PFDs and whistles in our


Check out our recommended packing list.

What Not To Bring

Phones, Gum, hair dryers, curling irons, knives, stereos, radios, ipods, game systems, tablets, laptops, inappropriate reading material, cigarettes, matches or lighters.

Labelling your Belongings 

Please labelling all items with child's first and last name. Iron on or sew in labels work best for clothing, and permanent markers for other types of gear. Even if you feel sure that your child will recognize his or her belongings, it is so much easier for us to return labelled clothing and gear that gets misplaced, or left behind at the end of camp.

Mabel's Labels

To help you with labelling, we suggest that you consider the options available from Mabel's Labels. When ordering, indicate that you are with one of our camps, and a percentage of your order will go toward our fundraising efforts to help send kids to camp.




Medication at Camp

 f your child requires medication while at camp, it must be sent along in the original container with specific instructions on the Health Information Form.

All medications - prescription and non-prescription - are collected on the first day of camp to ensure that they are dispensed properly and don't pose a potential hazard to other campers. We require specific instructions for all types of medication sent.

Please label all non-prescription medication you send along, and enclose all medication for one camper into a zip lock bag, and label that, as well.  


Inhalers that are used regularly are kept by our health care staff who make sure that they are used on a regular schedule as specified on the health form. If your child uses an inhaler "as needed" please send along two - one to be kept by our health care staff and one to be carried by your child. We recommend sending a hip sack for easy carrying.


If your child has a potentially fatal allergy, you must send along two Epipens to camp. Anaphylaxis Canada suggests that at least two doses of epinephrine be available at all times because a second dose could be required 10-20 minutes after the first dose if the reaction continues. Also send a hip sack so your child (or the counsellor) can carry one Epipen at all times. The back up will be kept in the camp's health services building or the kitchen, depending your child's allergy.

Please Do Not Bring a Cell Phone

The camps of the YMCA feel the need to communicate with and enlist the support of our camper parents about the growing use of cell phones (particularly text messaging) and specifically, the impact phone use/possession has on your child in the camping environment. Please read this letter carefully, and as always, feel free to contact us with any questions, concerns or comments. We welcome your feedback.

We have many obligations as a values-based summer camping operation. Above all else, we must maintain a physically and emotionally safe camp environment. Additionally, based on our mission and parents' expectations, our camps must stay true to our traditional roots and not sacrifice the benefits of what we all value about a camp experience. The YMCA is deeply committed to preserving the type of camp atmosphere that we know provides many valuable and unique social and developmental opportunities to your child.

We would like to explain some of the most fundamental problems that we face at camp, as more and more campers are bringing mobile communication devices.

Camp helps build independence, but a cell phone at the ready undermines that very important part of the experience.

One of the most beneficial aspects of an experience at camp is that children have the opportunity to gain independence away from their own comfort zone, while still in a safe, comfortable and nurturing environment. It is important that your child recognizes the importance of asking one of our staff for help, rather than turning to his/her cell phone to call home looking for help. This skill is a very important step in dealing with real life problems away from you, and according to child psychologists specializing in the value of a summer camping experience, will serve him or her well in the long run. We also suspect this component in developing independence is part of the reason you send your child to camp.

You can help your children become more independent while at camp by telling them that there is always someone they can reach out to, whether it is their counsellor, an activity leader, counselling manager or even the Director or first aid person. Part of our role as camp staff is to help your children learn to help themselves, by encouraging them to ask their own questions, and seek assistance from others to help solve their problems.

Based on our observations and perhaps conversations with your child, we agree to consult with you directly if your child is experiencing a challenge adjusting to camp, or any other issues that could benefit from your input.

Our staff are not able to provide adequate supervision of Online/Cell Phone Activity

We all know that child safety experts highly recommended that parents closely monitor their children's online and cellular interactions. Although we don't feel that kids are intentionally going to do "bad" things, we also know that sometimes choices are made before potential consequences are considered and safety has been sacrificed.

Our directors are constantly challenged to balance "progress" with tradition. Clearly, in safety related situations that require immediate attention, cell phones have increased the level of safety at camp. However, when used secretly by campers, cell phones have posed unnecessary risks to the safety and well being of campers with the phones, and to other campers around them.

We appreciate and understand your apprehension when your child is way at camp, and as always, you are absolutely welcome to call us directly, and the counsellor or a counselling manager can give you an update about how things are going.

We think that you'll agree that, even though "letting go" is challenging for parents and campers, the benefits of this challenge is most certainly one of the best things about a child's experience at camp.

And please remember, we are ALWAYS willing to communicate with you about your child.

Thank you for your cooperation in this matter.


Cabin Mate Requests

We welcome cabin mate requests, however, we are not able to accommodate all of them.

We understand that friends are excited to attend camp together, but we also need to recognize that when old friends are together, others are often left out. Our counsellors work hard to build a cohesive cabin unit, but often struggle - though not nearly as much as the left-out camper(s) - when a clique has already been formed.

As we hope each year at camp brings new challenges and accomplishments, we feel strongly that camp is a place to make new friends while also nurturing old friendships.

Please limit your child's requests to two mutual requests, with the children being within one year of age of each other.




What to expect while you're at camp:

Check-In and Check-out

If you drive your child to camp, you will be directed to the drive through screening station registration table where your child will Covid-19 screened and checked in. At the end of the session campers must be signed out at the registration table by the person designated on the transportation form.

The First Day

Welcome to Wab! Our counsellors have been eagerly anticipating your arrival!

If you are dropped off at camp, you and your parents will check in beside the dining hall where you will be introduced to one of your counsellors. You will then get to see your cabin, drop off your gear and have a look around camp before the buses arrive.

Once the buses arrive, all campers gather on the playing field where they wait to have their names called out by their counsellors. Campers are placed in cabins based on age, and requests received prior to camp.

Lunch is served in the dining hall, and next are orientations and screenings at the Health and Wellness centre and the waterfront. Cabin groups also meet their tripper and learn about and begin to plan their canoe trip, and sign out their paddle for the session.

Also during the afternoon, campers take a tour of the camp and visit most of the activity areas, and learn more about the daily schedule, rules and behaviour guidelines.

Camper Code of Conduct

The Camper Code of Behaviour was designed to ensure that the quality of your child's camping experience continues to improve.

The two largest factors that impact a child's stay at camp are the staff and fellow campers. Staff members undergo thorough training and must abide by conditions of employment. These employment conditions are clearly outlined in the Camping Staff Guidelines which are reviewed annually. Staff agree to abide by the rules and regulations outlined in the Staff Guidelines and can jeopardize their employment by actions contrary to these guidelines.

The proper behaviour of our campers in addition to the professionalism of our staff creates and maintains the mix that has made our camps an important part of growing up for more than 60 years. Attention to the behaviour of campers is increasingly necessary due to the changing environment in which children grow up.

In order to ensure acceptable camper behaviour at all of our camps, we ask that parents and campers be aware of proper behaviour, and behaviour that can work against the goal of a high quality camping experience. As well, our staff need to know that parents are supportive of our efforts and can be relied upon for assistance if necessary.

Over the years, five areas of camper behaviour have been identified as problematic when surfacing in a group living at a summer camp. These behaviours are discussed here, and the potential consequences should they happen at camp.

Please be sure to read and discuss these guidelines with your child, and then both sign the section on the Camper Health Information form indicating you have done so. It is important that parents and campers are aware of the behaviour expectations at camp.


Swearing and the use of distasteful words in speech or songs is not acceptable at camp. The use of obscenities and swearing is not allowed by staff or campers. The parents of campers repeatedly using bad language will be informed if requests for restraint are ignored. In extreme situations, directors may make arrangements for the camper to be sent home.


Violence against another person is totally unacceptable in our society. Staff members are fired if they use physical violence against a camper, or fellow staff member. Campers must be aware that physical violence is never the solution to any problem. Some of our camp activities may involve physical contact but they are controlled and supervised. Parents will be informed of a child who uses physical violence against a staff member or fellow camper. Violent behaviour, or threats of violence can result in a camper being sent home.

Following Rules

With more than 100 campers and 30-60 staff, rules exist to ensure that the camp community operates safely and for the maximum enjoyment of everyone. Campers are asked and expected to be aware of and respectful of the camp rules. As well, campers are asked to be mindful of the instructions of their counsellors and other staff employed at the camp. Behaviour contrary to camp rules can be harmful to staff and dangerous to the camper. Campers that disobey rules and instructions will have the consequences of their behaviour explained to them. Actions such as running away, theft of other people's possessions, being outside of camp boundaries, breaking of bedtime rules and damaging camp property will be dealt with by the directing staff. Serious disregard may result in parents being informed and, if necessary, the camper being sent home.

Illegal Substances

Campers found in the possession of alcohol and/or illegal drugs on camp or on camp trips will be sent home. Campers found in the possession of tobacco will have the tobacco confiscated and their parents informed. Subsequent infractions will result in the camper being sent home.

Campers are not allowed to smoke at our camps regardless of having parental permission. Campers are asked to hand in all prescription and non prescription medication to ensure proper dispensing and eliminate possible dangers to themselves and to other campers.

Camper to Camper Interaction

The way campers treat each other is extremely important to a successful stay at camp. Counsellors monitor the way campers relate to each other and will intervene when necessary. Campers that deliberately try to lessen the enjoyment of camp for another camper will be asked to discuss the situation with counsellors and support staff. In extreme cases parents may be called to discuss camper behaviour. Bullying, harassment, ridicule and malice do not belong in a setting where we all live so close together. Parents are asked to make campers aware that the camp will be their home for one, two or more weeks and that behaviour not acceptable in the camper's home is probably not acceptable at camp. Camp life is Spartan, physically demanding and unique but proper behaviour and respect for others is still necessary. Having campers prepared and aware of acceptable behaviour in these areas will ensure a smooth, safe and enjoyable experience for everyone at our camps this summer.


Of special concern to parents

Health Safety & Wellness

The safety of your child is our first priority. Support staff are constantly on duty to maintain safe facilities and all staff are trained in emergency and supervisory techniques.

Waterfront staff are lifeguard qualified and all campers and staff wear Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs) at all times during boating activities.

Each camp has a well-equipped Health and Wellness centre staffed by first aid qualified senior staff who handle minor health concerns. Local medical clinics are used for consultation and each camp is no further than 20 minutes away from the emergency rooms at local hospitals.

Our kitchens prepare nutritious meals based on Canada's Food Guide and our maintenance staff ensure that the sites are clean and safe. Our camps are inspected regularly by the local health departments and accredited by the Ontario Camping Association. We also conduct weekly water quality testing of both drinking and lake water test results.

Safety & Supervision

The health and safety of your child is our first priority. We firmly believe that prevention is the key to good safety practices. Our staff are trained to effectively handle accidents when they do occur and reduce the risk of such mishaps. All areas at camp are constantly supervised and campers are aware of boundaries.

Water Safety

Waterfront staff are trained and qualified by the Lifesaving Society of Canada. All campers undergo a waterfront screening to determine their swimming ability on the first day of camp. They also learn the waterfront rules, procedures and schedule of swim times. All campers and staff must wear P.F.D.s (personal flotation devices) at all times in all boats, on camp and off.


We have successfully struck a delicate balance between the food that children find acceptable and adults consider nutritionally appropriate. Our menus are designed according to Canada's Food Guide and each camp has a fruit fridge located inside the dining hall so campers in need of a between meal snack can help themselves. We also continue to work with our supplier to limit the amount of sugar and fats, especially trans fats in the food we serve, by cutting back on the pre-made foods.

Drinking Water

All of our water systems are approved by and registered with the Ministry of the Environment, and are in compliance with Regulation 170/03. Our drinking water is tested regularly in accordance with Reg. 170.


On the day of their arrival, all campers are checked by our health and wellness staff. Counsellors make sure that campers brush their teeth twice a day, wash, and change their clothes regularly. Each accommodation area has a wash house facility equipped with hot and cold running water. Although laundry facilities are generally not necessary for a one or two week stay at camp, in obvious circumstances (eg bed-wetting) we will make sure that sleeping bags/soiled clothing are (discreetly) taken care of. All campers are encouraged to wash their hands before meals, and our dining halls are equipped with hand sanitizer dispensers.

Sun Safety

Be sure to send the following items along with your child:

  • a good sun hat. Baseball hats do not cover the ears or the back of the neck, which, especially while on the water, can become easily sunburned.
  • waterproof sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30.
  • lip balm stick(s) with SPF 15.

We also recommend:

  • UV protective sunglasses
  • a rash guard swim shirt, comfortable swim wear that blocks harmful UV rays

Limiting Exposure to West Nile Virus

We can minimize our exposure to mosquitoes by wearing long sleeve shirts and pants, especially at dusk and dawn. Light colours are preferable, since mosquitoes are attracted to dark colours.

  • Check out our "Bug Jacket" in our on-line Tuck shop.

Health Canada recommends the use of an insect repellent containing DEET:

Children aged two to 12:

  • Up to 10% concentration may be used, applied up to three times daily. One application of 10% DEET should be effective for three hours against mosquitoes.

Adults and children over 12:

  • Up to 30% concentration of DEET may be used. One application of 30% DEET should be effective for six hours against mosquitoes.

First Aid Treatment

If your child becomes ill or injured while at camp, immediate care will be provided.


If your child becomes ill at camp, you will be contacted by phone within 24 hours of the beginning of the illness. In most instances the camper can remain at camp if it appears the illness will pass within a reasonable period of time. If the symptoms persist for more than 24 hours, the parents will be contacted again and together with the director, will decide whether the camper will remain at camp or recuperate at home.

If Your Child Requires Medical Attention

All three camps are within 10-15 minutes of at least one emergency medical care facility. If an emergency visit is required, we will try to reach you by phone. The timing and occurrence of the phone call will depend on the severity of the situation.

Communicable Disease

If you are aware that your child has been in contact with anyone suffering from a communicable disease just before leaving for camp, please consider keeping him or her home a day or two and seeking your doctor's advice.

Head Lice

All campers are checked for head lice on the first day of camp.

Please check your children for signs of lice, and if necessary, treat them before they come to camp. Checking is very easy to do and could save your family and our camp staff a lot of time and hassle. 

If your child is found to have lice at camp, you will be notified and may be asked to pick him/her up immediately. Once your child has undergone the appropriate treatment, he or she will be welcome to return.

Contacting your Camper

Written Contact

Please write to your child when he or she is at camp, and feel free to suggest other family and extended family members do so as well. It's exciting for campers to receive mail, and beneficial to receive contact from home. Please keep the letter upbeat though; if you have news that could be seen as worrying or sad, it's probably best to share it in person, once your camper returns home.

Please don't send food!

You are welcome to send your camper a care package, but please do not send food. Reading material or other non-edible items are absolutely acceptable, but edible contents will be kept in the office and returned to the camper on the last day of camp.

  • Snacks that are not properly screened can cause a serious health risk for a camper with a potentially fatal allergy
  • We are cutting down on the amount of food allowed in our camper cabins for hygiene and pest control
  • Food in care packages often leads to problems within the cabin group, since the recipient feels he or she can choose to share, or not to share, which inevitably leaves somebody feeling left out

We have a well stocked tuck shop, three meals, and a variety of healthy snacks available throughout the day. Please do not send any food.

Please do not plan to visit, or tell your child that you will visit

Campers have the opportunity to gain independence while at camp and visits usually disrupt their progress, and almost always require a "recovery period" to readjust back into camp life.

For this same reason, please do not tell your child to call home. If you have a situation that requires a visit or a conversation, please contact the director, and together, you can discuss the best way to proceed.

Camper Family Survey

Once camp ends and your child is back home sharing stories of adventures, friends and fun, you can expect to receive a link to an online survey about his or her time with us.  We hope you'll take a moment to complete the survey, along with your child.  These surveys are excellent tools to help us improve our camping programs.