Frequently Asked Questions
Why don't you offer two-week sessions to boys who are older than 10?
Our goal is to create a “home away from home” for every boy. A four-week camp stay is essential to derive the full benefits of camp and the Ponacka experience. In the 1980s we introduced two-week periods to assist younger boys in making the transition to camp life. A four-week session enables a boy to:
- Settle in, which may take up to a week before he feels truly comfortable with the routines, his group, the counsellors and how camp runs.
- Develop lasting friendships. Our alumni tell us their best and most enduring friendships were forged at camp. These friendships are the greatest legacy of summer camp.
- Develop self-reliance, resiliency and independence. Whether conquering a fear of heights on the aerial ropes course, cooking dinner in the pouring rain on canoe trip, or simply learning to live in harmony with other boys in his tent or cabin, the campers are challenged in ways that foster the character and skills needed for a successful future.
- Maximize his opportunities for skill development – especially at swimming, canoeing, and sailing where he can earn provincial and national certifications. Try our 20+activities and earn awards as desired.
- Go on a multi-day canoe trip and also have time to complete his awards at camp. Play in our sports leagues, hockey, soccer and basketball and participate in our month end drama production.
- Camp is an ideal place to learn the skills needed in the 21st century workplace– teamwork, initiative, compassion, empathy, communication, self discipline – packaged in an atmosphere of fun and laughter. A four-week stay solidifies the gains that every boy makes.
What do Ponacka parents say about the four week program?
Why is Ponacka tech free?
Ponacka has been a tech-free home to “unplug” from the outside world since it’s inception. In every era, we have worked hard to push back on the encroachment of outside inputs, from discmans in the 90s to iPods in the 00s and more recently cell phones, Apple watches and the like.
We believe that the benefits children and young adults receive from camp are in part, related to the immersive nature of living an uninterrupted camp experience.
Being untethered from a device allows campers and staff to simply focus on their own goals, activities and the friendships they are developing at Ponacka.
We hope that by choosing Ponacka, families will share these values and support their boys to be tech free for the brief period of time they are at camp.
Why is Ponacka an all-boys camp?
In the 1940s when Camp Ponacka was founded, co-ed camps were rare. Ponacka’s founding director Bruno Morawetz set out to provide a small group of boys with a traditional camp experience in a wilderness setting, where they could gain new skills and develop themselves. Ponacka employs about 15 female staff as activity instructors and support staff.
Some Ponackians describe the benefits of an all boys camp,
“My favourite thing about a boys-only camp vs. a co-ed camp is that you can truly be yourself. One of the greatest things about camp is learning and embracing who you really are as a person; not the person your parents or city friends want you to be. I think introducing girls into that equation would make ‘finding yourself’ harder. — Tyler Ray
“I prefer a boys-only camp because it gives me the freedom to truly express who I am. When I’m around girls I have to give off a certain image but in an all-boys environment I have the freedom to be who I want to be. — Leo Timmins
Is it normal for boys to feel homesick?
The majority of boys experience some degree of homesickness in their first, and sometimes second year at camp. Anne, Don and Laura, the counsellors and other staff will comfort a homesick boy and do their best to make him feel supported and cared for. Please encourage your boy to tell us if he feels homesick. That way, we can support him right away. Most cases of homesickness resolve quickly after he has adjusted to camp life.
Fleeting homesickness may occur as parents leave after the mid month visit. We ask parents to leave their boy with a counsellor or at an activity at the end of their visit.
What are the camp's safety procedures and medical facilities?
All counselors have current Standard First Aid certification and are trained in water search-and-rescue and firefighting/prevention, during pre-camp. Smoke alarms and fire extinguishers are located in all buildings.
The majority of staff has National Life Guard certification and all have Bronze Cross. Campers are required to swim with a buddy.
The camp always has a physician in residence 24 hours a day. The doctor and his/her family live in the camp infirmary, centrally located in camp It is equipped with three beds and a well-stocked medicine cabinet. In case of emergency or x-rays, the nearest hospital is about a half-hour’s drive away in Bancroft.
How well-prepared are your counselling staff?
All Ponacka counsellors were campers at Ponacka, the majority having started camp at the age of 8! Because of this, the average number of years a current counsellor has been at Ponacka is nine. They have all participated in the month long counsellor in training program and are trained to teach specific activities. Each counsellor holds either Bronze Cross or National Lifeguard Service certification, along with Standard First Aid. Learn more about our staff.
Where does my son sleep?
The six youngest groups sleep in cabins. In the ten older groups, there are five boys and one counsellor in each tent and two tents make up a group. There is no electricity in these cabins or tents. The boys unpack their belongings onto shelving upon arrival, and store their luggage on racks under the cabin or tent.
What do you serve at meals and how do you manage picky eaters?
The boys eat with their cabin/tent group and their two counsellors and Counsellor in Training. The meals are served “family style”.
A typical breakfast always includes a selection of cold cereals, hot porridge, hot chocolate, juice and fresh fruit. These are followed by “second course” – scrambled eggs and toast, pancakes, muffins and cheese, BLTs, French toast, and more. On Sundays, the boys wake up to the smell of delicious homemade cinnamon buns.
For lunch and dinner, the menu includes meatball subs, chicken fajitas, homemade mac-and-cheese, soup and make-your-own sub sandwiches, chicken burgers, grilled cheese, spaghetti, lasagna, and more. Every Friday night the boys enjoy pizza with Caesar salad and ice cream. On Saturdays, we have an outdoor barbecue with hamburgers, hotdogs, fresh vegetables and fruit.
We encourage each boy to try a small (“no thank you”) helping, even if he says he dislikes a particular food. The boys come to each meal hungry because they have been active and busy, and eating together they can observe their friends enjoying foods they might have been reticent to try. We find that gentle persuasion, hunger and good modelling enables the vast majority of boys to return home with an increased range of foods they like.
Please note: Ponacka has peanut butter available, with procedures in place to ensure that a boy with peanut allergies stays safe.
On occasion, my son wets his bed. How do you prevent the embarrassment this situation can cause?
Bed-wetting (enuresis) is not uncommon, including at camp. If parents anticipate it occurring, we suggest sending two sleeping bags. After the boys leave for breakfast, one counselor stays behind to conduct a bed check. Any wet sleeping bags are discreetly taken to the laundry hut for immediate washing and the replacement sleeping bag put out on the bed. Some boys choose to wear pull-ups that can be discreetly disposed of and replaced each morning by the counsellor. Others use the DDAVP medication that works well for many boys. The counsellors will also wake up a camper later in the evening, which can help to prevent a wet bed. No teasing is permitted – due to the measures described, others in the group are usually unaware of the situation.
When can we visit our son?
Parents of four-week campers are encouraged to visit on the middle weekend of the session. We suggest bringing a picnic lunch to enjoy at one of our picnic tables located throughout camp. Parents are encouraged to take a tour of the camp with their son, and bring bathing suits for a swim at the beach or go for a paddle. The ideal visit is three to four hours. If parents wish to visit at another time, it is best to contact camp to make sure their son is not out on excursion.
How will I know how my son is doing at camp?
Within a few days of the start of camp, one of his counsellors will write a hand-written letter to inform parents or guardians of the boy’s progress. This letter is then scanned to speed its arrival time! We encourage the boys to write letters home regularly. We discourage campers from phoning home. If parents have concerns we encourage them to call camp or send an email message. We promise to respond quickly!