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2020 Staff Team

Emma is returning for an amazing 6th summer at MKDC and is a key member of our camp family. She is known for her amazing programming skills and her important role as “bead master”!

Phaedra is returning for her third year at MKDC as a programmer and key member of our waterfront team. She is known for her caring nature (especially with our youngest campers).

“Nature Nicole” is back for her 2nd summer as a programmer and also our environmental advocate! Nicole is known for her super science skills and her unflappable easygoing attitude.

Reagan is back for her 2nd summer on the programming team at MKDC. She is known for her high energy and enthusiasm, and her dependable teamwork on staff.

Lora is back for her 2nd summer at MKDC. She is known for her loveable no-nonsense attitude, her ability to keep her cabin and campers organized, and her amazing photobombing skills.


What’s new in 2020?

One of my favourite things to work on this time of year is the enhancements that we will be making to the program. I am so excited to share these new additions!

New Majors: As with every summer, we have some favourite majors that we’re bringing back, but also a number of new ones – and I am so excited about this year’s choices!

New *Drone* Program! We are so thrilled to welcome Makayla from Highland Aerial to our team this summer. Makayla will be coming to camp each week to share the basics of drone technology with our campers. We can’t wait to see the amazing footage that will be created from this program!

*Archery!* Archery is something that we have had on our program wishlist for many years, and 2020 is finally the year! We’re still working on some of the details, but we are super excited to offer this program that will allow campers to “level up” their skills as they gain experience and confidence.

Language Development – Did you know that we have a number of French-speaking staff members? When you register, you may notice (or have noticed) that there is now a spot on your camper profile form to indicate which languages your child speaks and/or is learning. This will help us use our French-speakers on staff to include more French into our program for our French Immersion campers.

There are lots of other little bits and pieces that we’re working on. Stay tuned for more updates! ūüôā

Countdown to camp…


Charitable activities to do with your kids this holiday season in Lanark County

Angel Tree
Choose a child from an Angel Tree close to the age(s) of your kiddo(s) and select a gift for them together.

Pajama Drive
Go shopping with your kiddos for pajamas for Boston Pizza’s Pajama Drive. (Deadline is Dec 15)

Food Bank
Bake something fun with your kiddos! When you go to buy the ingredients for your holiday cooking/baking, buy double and donate the doubles to the food bank.

Toy Cleanout
Go through your child’s toys and help them select some things they no longer play with to donate to charity.


Thanksgiving Round-Up: Stuff to do with the family in & near Lanark County

Need to keep those kids engaged with the extra day off school? Got family visiting from out of town? Here’s a family-friendly list of what’s going on this Thanksgiving weekend:

More fun ideas:

Have I missed anything? Add your suggestions in the comments!


What’s New for Summer 2019

Curious about what’s coming up for Summer 2019? Besides our programming calendar (which is of course different every year!) here’s a few other things we’re working on:


If you’re registered for Summer 2019, then you’ve already seen our new registration system! The CampInTouch system makes parents’ lives (and ours!) much easier by saving all your family information securely in one place:

  • Complete all necessary forms
  • Check our private “news” bulletins for camp families only
  • Order clothing labels
  • Check your remaining balance & make payments
  • Put $ in your child’s camp store account
  • View photos of YOUR child
  • and more!

Environmental Responsibility

We’re making some logistical changes to minimize our impact on the environment and teach our campers environmental responsibility:

  • Minimizing lunch waste & improving routines for composting (please note that we will be strongly discouraging the use of single-use plastic water bottles, so please make sure you pack a reusable one.)
  • We’re also expanding our gardening & nature program by building a greenhouse! This will give our campers (especially our camp chef majors) more hands-on opportunities to develop their green thumb.

Loose Parts Play Area

We’re in the process of deciding on the perfect spot to put a “loose parts pit”. The concept of playing with “loose parts” was first conceived by Simon
Nichlson, who believed that the ability to create, discover, and imagine are enhanced when multiple kinds of loose parts are available for children to use (1971). A loose parts playground provides children with the opportunity to experiment and use their creativity to invent their own activities. This will be an amazing camper-directed play area for our Sprouts in particular!

New-and-improved Camp Store & Accounts

  • Last year we were so excited to install our gatehouse/camp store near our pickup area. This summer, we’ll be making more use of it by opening the store to allow camper visits (if they choose) during select open periods. Thanks to our new CampInTouch registration system, we are able to offer this as a completely cashless system for campers – just load whatever amount you choose to their account, and they’ll be able to purchase a small treat or camp souvenir.

More updates for 2019 coming soon!


Family Day Bacon Breakfast Cookies

There are many magical things about these cookies. For one thing, you can eat them for breakfast. They taste amazing with coffee... and who doesn’t want cookies for breakfast?¬†¬†

Secondly, you only need one bowl to make them. (I’m a lazy baker – I only do things I can do all in one bowl.)

Thirdly… IT’S BACON. IN. A. COOKIE. My step-dad (who is vegetarian) once accidentally started eating one and conveniently went temporarily deaf until he was done eating it. (That’s how good they are.)


  • 1/2 pound bacon (the good thick stuff – applewood smoked if you can)
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups corn flakes or equivalent flake-y cereal (this is the part where you pretend these cookies are healthy, so choose accordingly)
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries (Some people will tell you raisons are ok as a substitute. Those people are wrong.)


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook bacon until very crisp, drain well and chop into 1/2 inch pieces.
2. Beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg. Combine flour and baking soda and stir into butter mixture. Stir in bacon, multi-grain flakes and cranberries.
3. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet. Space 2 inches apart. Bake for 15-18 minutes. Remove to rack to cool – about 2 minutes, then remove from rack.
4. Ravenously devour all the bacon cookies. Do not share with the children. If anyone asks what that delicious smell is… it must be that new scented candle you bought! Share with your loving family because it’s Family Day. (But make a secret extra batch for you and hide it in the cupboard.)

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Our Christmas Elf, Part 2

Missed Part 1 of our elf story? Start here.

One thing I was very sure about right from the start was that I didn’t want a “regular” Elf on the Shelf. I wanted an elf that was uniquely ours… and he HAD to have the name Edwick.

So we started doing a little shopping around. Since we do the craft fair circut for Ron’s business Wood & Ashes, we were hoping we would find Edwick at a show – but nothing was quite right. Eventually we found an artist online who creates handmade elf dolls – and her style was PERFECT. Then it was just a matter of choosing the little guy with the right face… and when I saw him I knew right away.


One of the things I really love about him is that he is fully posable – right down to the hands. (Plus his little pencil behind the ear reminded me of Ron!) I also love that he isn’t overtly Christmassy – he just looks like a regular elf, but we can easily give him some extra Christmas-y accessories when we want to.

Our elf is one of a kind, so our “rules” for his visits are unique to our family too. I encourage everyone to make your Elf fit your family and your values – there are no “Elf” police! Doing it your own way will help you avoid feeling like a slave to the elf. (Because if it becomes a chore… then it’s not magical and no fun.)

Our Elf Rules

  1. Like his namesake, Edwick likes to bring the family special things to do. He might bring a new Christmas book to read, a craft activity, or tickets to the Magic of Lights.
  2. There’s no book or DVD. Our elf is unique to our family.
  3. Sometimes Edwick is lazy and doesn’t move (or just happens to go back to the same spot). That’s ok.
  4. Edwick does not do ‘naughty’ things, because he models positive behaviour. But sometimes he is silly, or hides, or writes us a note.
  5. Edwick is not a snitch reporting back to Santa – he’s with us to encourage Christmas spirit and family time. But sometimes we brag to him about something awesome somebody did. (“Hey Edwick, did you see G clear his dishes after lunch without being reminded?”)
  6. Edwick also likes to remind us to be kind and generous, so he reminds us to look for toys and other things we don’t play with or use anymore to give to other little boys and girls.
  7. Edwick doesn’t like to be touched, so we try to respect that. (And he stays up high where the grabby 2 year old can’t reach.)

What is unique about your family’s elf?

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Last Day Magic

I know it’s pretty easy to do on the last day of camp, but our oldest campers had me in tears for most of the afternoon.

When we set up for carnival, it’s a free-range event; the kids play a variety of games which the staff are running in exchange for tickets to spend at the prize booth. Since the campers are free to roam around within the carnival space, we pair up bigs and littles so that the littles have someone to help them with the games and keep track of their tickets.

But that’s not quite what happened.

Instead, we saw Heartwood campers who were not just helpers, but completely devoted to their Sprouts:

Bigs and littles having a snack together.

I watched pair after pair of campers sitting down in the snack area to share a bag of popcorn or other treat and having a chat.

I saw a big helper who didn’t spend any of his tickets on himself, except for a few to buy a freezie. The rest of his tickets all went to buy his Sprout anything his little heart desired – including numerous snacks, “rockstar glasses”, two glow in the dark wands, and a wind-up robot.

All smiles! These Heartwood girls were so excited to buy a special prize for their Sprout.

Another Sprout had a meltdown when he realized the prize he was after had already been sold. The Heartwood camper who bought it immediately offered to resell it, and two others pooled their tickets to pay him back for it. (The kids had the whole issue solved before the staff even knew what happened!)

Two campers knew their Sprout was desperate to win the only PlayDoh set, so they conspired to pool their tickets together to buy it for her.

The best part of watching the Heartwoods take care of their Sprouts was not just that they were so generous with their tickets; it was the obvious joy they took in making our youngest campers happy. No one ever even suggested that they should spend their tickets on someone else; yet it came naturally and beautifully to them , and their faces were glowing as they did so.

Perhaps the most magical part of this whole story is that it wasn’t a last-day anomaly – our campers really are this nice to each other – but the format of carnival just highlighted it in an extra-beautiful way.

Parents of Heartwoods: You should be seriously proud of these amazingly caring, generous, selfless kids.
Parents of Sprouts & Shoots: Please know how loved your kids are by the older campers. As your monkeys get older, they’ll have some fantastic shoes to fill.

We are raising some seriously special kids here, people. These kiddos are giving me hope for the world.


I love our LIT program… but I’m getting rid of it.

LITs aren’t LITs anymore


Maple Key first opened in 2009. Right from the beginning, we were committed to helping kids in Lanark County develop leadership beyond what they were able to experience with us as campers. We wanted to continue to change the world through these amazing kids. And we wanted to provide a way for our long-time campers who love MKDC to continue to be a meaningful part of their camp community.

That’s how our Leaders-In-Training program was born. And we really meant “leaders” and we really meant “training”. We wanted the program to stand for something.

We really meant “leaders”
– We created an application process, so that only teens who were truly committed to the process would be accepted.
– We created a set of standards to which all LITs would be held accountable.
– We reserved the right to dismiss an LIT from the program if they were not behaving in a way that demonstrated positive leadership (but we always exhaust all efforts to help them first).

We really meant “training”
– We created a schedule that allowed LITs to receive an hour of formal training every day (we didn’t just ask them to “help out” and then call it training).
– We gave counsellors an evaluation form to use as a meaningful way of tracking the LITs progress during their weekly “placements” so that ongoing feedback would be part of the norm.
РWe implemented a long-term attendance requirement, because we recognized that leaders are not built in a week.

The integrity of the LIT program has always been extremely important to me. I didn’t want Maple Key¬†LIT “graduates” representing us out there in the community if they didn’t exemplify our leadership standards. I didn’t want to start handing out recommendations and certificates like candy – I’ve never been part of that “everyone gets a trophy” mindset. We’ve never guaranteed a “certificate of completion”. We wanted our LITs to be very proud of their recommendation letter, because they knew that it was something that they had truly¬†earned, and not¬†something they were merely entitled to.

I named the program “Leaders-In-Training” after the other camp programs that I witnessed in my early camp career. I was inspired by the high quality and structure of those programs. At the time, I am relatively certain we were the only day camp offering a “Leader-In-Training” program in all Lanark County.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so they say. Over the past few years, there has been an upsurge in “leaders in training” programs in the area. That’s great – I am very much in favour of having as many leadership opportunities as possible for our soon-to-be-adults. But these programs are all very different – despite the fact that they share a single name.¬†Many of these programs would be more accurately described as a volunteer program, or are designed for a much shorter time commitment. I feel like it’s watering down what leadership training is really supposed to be.

So, in keeping with the uniqueness of our program, our future leaders deserve a unique program NAME to match. As of now, the MKDC¬†“leaders-in-training” program ceases to be, and will be unveiled under a new name. I don’t want there to be any confusion about exactly what we do – and the new name for our program will make things crystal clear.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this blog post, when I unveil the new program name…