Optimists hope to revive camps

Mary Shields and the Main Place Optimist Club of Erin are working to revive Patrick Suessmuth’s youth camps.

Before Suessmuth passed away, the Main Place Optimist Club of Erin (MPO) provided 10 years of financially accessible recreational kids’ camps in Erin, and Shields said the club is looking to bring the program back.

“We’re just determined to really help to fill that void that has been left because we really can’t have our youth with no place to go outside of school because they’ll start looking for their own fun and that won’t be good,” Shields said at the Dec. 16 Erin council meeting.

Kevin MacPherson, who was also at the meeting, worked with Suessmuth over the decade the camps ran and will be a key member in moving forward with the new plans.

He said in the later part of those 10 years of working with Suessmuth there were close to 100 children a week signed up for the camps.

After Suessmuth passed away, MacPherson tried to continue with the camps and he said he secured the high school gym, the grounds, the arena and the agricultural building grounds as possible locations. The MPO is hoping it will have similar support this time around.

At this time MPO didn’t ask for anything from council, it just wanted to inform councillors of its plans and mention that it will likely be requesting funding and support in the future.

Now the group is trying to “bring is as many small partners on board as possible and let people know and work with people who want to help us,” Shields said.

“Way to go,” councillor John Brennan said. “You have a remarkable amount of dedication and a great deal of courage, treading in the foot prints of a giant.”

Councillors Matt Sammut and Jeff Duncan also expressed their support for the program.

The club’s first goal is to have a camp in operation for March Break this year, with Optimist International providing the insurance, but it’s waiting to see how that plays out before making further plans.     

“We’re just trying to start small and make sure we do all our due diligence,” Shields said.

“We know that this is going to take time to build so that’s why we want to start off with the March Break camps.”