A portage in the city sends kids to camp – Globe & Mail

Posted on August 31, 2010 by spreston

The following article was published in the Globe & Mail on August 16, 2010:

– By Paul Waldie

The Donors: Willie Macrae, Stuart Snyder and Jake Irwin

The Gift: $56,000 and climbing

The Cause: Amici Camping Charity

The Reason: To help underprivileged children go to summer camp.

A few years ago Willie Macrae and his friend Stuart Snyder were asked to join the board of Amici Camping Charity, a Toronto organization that helps send underprivileged children to summer camps. They’d both spent many summers at Kilcoo Camp near Minden, Ont., while growing up and they felt strongly about the benefits of that experience. But instead of becoming directors, they decided to do something else.

“We said ‘Let’s do an event rather than sitting on a board. Let’s do something tangible to raise money,’” recalled Mr. Macrae, an urban planner at the City of Toronto.

They wanted to come up with a catchy fundraiser that would somehow bring the wilderness to the city. So they organized a 20-kilometre urban canoe trip that involves paddling across Toronto’s harbour and portaging through the downtown core.

With the help of another colleague, Jake Irwin, they launched the first Canoe Heads for Kids event in 2007. There were eight participants who managed to raise $10,000. The all-day trip has grown steadily every year and this year 50 people hit the water and the streets in June. In total, the group has raised $56,000.

All proceeds go to Amici, which works with more than 20 summer camps across Ontario. The charity helps send more than 140 boys and girls to camp each summer. Once a child is sponsored by Amici, the sponsorship continues each year until he or she reaches the age of 16.

“I think about camp every day, especially in the summer,” said Mr. Macrae, who is 34 and plans to send his daughter to camp when she is older.

Mr. Irwin, a Toronto lawyer, said his 10 summers at camp as a child were invaluable. “It takes you out of your comfort zone a little bit and really lets you develop your own personality,” he said. “You get to reflect and become who you are without any of the external pressures that you have in the city, like peer influences. It’s great being out of the city and in the wilderness, where you can just meet new friends and have some fun.”