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posted May 3, 2004

Correspondence about clubs for kids, May 2004

From: H.L
Sent: Friday, May 14, 2004 9:53 AM
Subject: no more camps

I am disappointed to hear that there will be no summer camps taking place this year. This means that only children with a stay at home parent who can afford the club fees (i.e. wealthier parents) will be able to take advantage of the programs. I suppose there are other school-age programs in the city, but it would be nice to have something in out neighbourhood. My kids are not school age, and this in no way affects us, but I was thrilled to see such interesting programs available. I am not quite sure what the problem was involving supervision (perhaps more staff were necessary) but that is the nature of camps and other supervised activities ... no one anticipated this?

I hope this idea will be revisited in the future -- it was marvellous, and I am sure there are lots of resources that the park could draw upon to make it work.

Hello H.L.,

The city of Toronto runs quite a few summer camps nearby: if you want to find out more, call the Wallace-Emerson Centre at 392-0039. I think you will find there is plenty going on in our neighbourhood.

However the city has not run a camp out of Dufferin Grove Park for many years. The few camps we've had had been either Steve and Julie's environmental camp, or (last year) our Friends of Dufferin Grove Park experiment.

Camps are a very big responsibility because of the "duty of care," so they are like nothing else that happens in the park. The staff who worked there last year found it too much when combined with all the many other things they have to do at the park.

(Note: our park has as many things going on in it as a busy community centre. Our city budget is currently at $61,000, which we overspent last year. A busy community centre tends to be around $400,000 minumum, some much more. You see our staff problem.)

As for "anticipating this," quoting your letter, it's because we gave careful thought to our experiences last year that we decided not to do a camp again this year. We have only so much energy, imagination, and time available (from the staff) and we're trying to deploy them as sensibly as we can. Plus they have to attend the wading pool and that is of course, mandatory.

The clubs are an interesting way to use people's talents and put a kind of energy into the park that suits it (parks are primarily meant to be open spaces and not custodial spaces). I think if you look carefully you will find that it is by no means only wealthy parents (i.e. who can afford not to be working 9-5) who bring their children to the park. There are many people who try to make sure they have flexible hours in summer, or who do shift-work, or who try to scrape by on one salary even if it's not big, to allow them some more flexibility in their lives. Especially in summer, parents go to all sorts of trouble to give their kids a sense of getting off the school schedule for a bit.

The clubs are meant to make it easier for all those folks, to contribute to the ingenuity of parents in making nice summer days for their kids. As you will see when you look at our rather preliminary description on the web site:

-- there is no mention of what the club fees will be. We'd like to have most clubs either free or pay-what-you-can. So if you were worried that you don't have enough money (if one of the clubs interests your kids), don't worry.


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