Lights! Water! Shelter! Tewateno is a dream come true for thousands of area Girl Guides

Part of the joy of being in the Girl Guides movement is sleeping under the stars. Learning how to build a campfire from scratch. Planning menus that will last in a bag hanging from a tree branch. Lying in a sleeping bag and giggling til all hours. Learning to Scout’s Pace. Learning how to live in the “wilderness” and leave only your footprints when you go. Singing songs. Learning tenets of behaviour that stay with you forever.

The Sparks, Brownies, Guides, Pathfinders and Ranger Cadets in Champlain Maple Leaf Division number between 2,500 and 3,000. These are girls in the Guiding Movement. And since the beginning these are girls without a place to camp.

Next Tuesday night, on 100 acres north of Midhurst, the switch will flick on a hydro and solar system that will provide hydro and running water to five settings within Camp Tewateno and the dream will turn a corner. This is one of the most unique Guide camps on the continent, and its very being is due to vision, tenacity, commitment and celebration of a host of people.

Tuesday night the switch will also flip on the lights at Gord’s Place, an 800 square foot supply building that has been erected in memory of Gord Pinder who passed away almost two years ago. Gord’s wife, Jackie, has been a pillar of involvement for Girl Guides since moving into Barrie. Gord came right along with Jackie and offered his energy and his vision for what seems like forever for a campground for Champlain Maple Leaf Division.

Many of us remember Gord as the cheerful salesman behind the counters and racks of tools at Sears. And certainly after his retirement from military service where he was a trade school instructor, Gord did sell tools for the last 18 years of his official “working” life. But it was while he was using those tools on behalf of Girl Guides that Gord was truly happy. While his basement workshop turned out chairs, rocking horses and items to delight his grandchildren, Gord’s other commitment partnered Jackie’s for a place where Girl Guides could camp. It is fitting that two other volunteers, Bob and Debbie Boychoff, built Gord’s Place to honour his memory. Bob Boychoff doesn’t stop there… he’s welded, sandblasted, painted, built wrought iron gates for the camp and has recently installed solar energy. He gives all his skills willingly to Camp Tewateno for the use of his two Guiding daughters and others.

Stan and Sue Jessup have two daughters in Guiding and they put their considerable energy into camp activities. Fundraising, managing the woodlot, clearing trees, preparing to build the $75,000 road into the camp… these are all valuable Jessup activities.

The commitment for Camp Tewateno began 20 years ago, along with the search for land. Area Guiding leaders had been looking for land all over Ontario, as far north as North Bay. And the answer came from Eileen Tiffin, a Guiding commissioner that when she died a decade ago she was buried in his Guiding uniform. She really wanted a camp in this area and Eileen mobilized a team to acquire 100 acres of land next to her own Midhurst property. Price tag? $100,000. After raising revenue for years, when the coffers were $30,000 short, Sylvia Dufresne participated in a fundraising and mobilization campaign that has involved every Guiding pack and scores of people.

What makes Camp Tewateno especially unique is its sites. There’s a setting of Military sites, complete with army tents and tent platforms. The Pioneer Site offers five covered wagons, complete with interior bunks, enough for eight girls. The Adirondack setting features rugged pioneer shanties, built in the trapper style.and a Native Canadian setting is in the planning stages complete with round tent pads and teepees.

In all the camp will accommodate about 40 Guides per setting, 200 in all. And while the first priority is Guiding, Tewateno will be available for day camps, reunions, non profit groups who want to benefit their populations.

Sylvia Dufresne is enthusiastic when she talks about the gifts the community has given to make this camp a reality. Husband Bob was conscripted to help out the minute he retired from the Barrie Fire Department. Scouter Henk Vandervelden has recently joined ranks and is picking up the mandate left empty with Gord Pinder’s death. Commissioner Marg Park gives hundreds of hours of time to this project. Woodworking students at North Collegiate constructed picnic tables for the camp.

“Every time I go into that building I think of Gord,” says Sylvia. “He took that camp under his wing and when he retired he was out there all day every day, clearing, moving, taking care of our property. Gord would come to see the engineers. Gord would help with hydro discussions. Gord would meet with architect Ted Handy who donated much of his time and design fees in development of the lodge that’s the current building project. Gord was irreplacable.”

On Tuesday night the girls in Guiding in this region, and their families, and the camp’s incredible supporters will be out in vast numbers to celebrate this new reality.

And you can count on it… Gord Pinder will be there, too.

Thanks, Gord. Thanks, Sylvia. Thanks to the team determined to make Guiding a lifelong activity.