Sweat mixed with tears on Tasia’s cheeks. The 11-year-old was discouraged and out of breath as she threw herself to the grassy earth of the Royal Botanical Garden’s lilac den.
“I’m always the first one out,” Tasia moaned through sniffles and tears.
Her and the other campers were playing a game called Migration. In this game, a camp counsellor stood at the top of the dell and the campers start at the opposite end. The counsellor then calls out a number between 1 and 20, closes their eyes and starts counting down. While the counsellor is counting, the campers try and run as close to the counsellor as possible, but they need to make sure they are well hidden before the counsellor is done counting and opens their eyes because any camper the counsellor can see has to return to the starting line. And so each time the counsellor closes their eyes and starts counting, the campers sprint, crawl and dive to their next hiding spot, creeping ever closer to the counsellor, each trying to be the first to tag the counsellor’s hand and win the game.
“I see Tasia behind the bench,” the counsellor had called moments earlier, sending Tasia back to the starting line and into her current state of defeat.
Tasia was fast – maybe the fastest kid in the game – and she was bold. The counsellor would count down from just four and Tasia would bolt from her hiding spot. And so she was often seen and sent back to start.
She was frustrated. She was ready to quit.
Seeing Tasia’s despair, one of the camp counsellors, Maxine, took a moment to encourage the upset girl.
“You’re so fast!” Maxine praised, “why are you giving up?”
“I try so hard but they always catch me,” Tasia sniffled.
“You always get so close. What if, once you get really, really close to the counsellor, you waited until he calls out a big number to run from your hiding spot. You don’t have to run so far every time.”
Tasia wiped her eyes and considered Maxine’s words.
“16!” called the camp counsellor across the dell, “15! 14!”
Tasia took off.
Maxine’s pep talk had worked. Tasia was back in the game. She waited patiently for the right moment to run and raced when she knew it was safe. She looked back to Maxine and Maxine cheered her on and gave her the thumbs up. She ducked, she dove, she crawled, she sprinted.
“Did you see me?” Tasia, nearly out of breath but brimming with pride, asked Maxine after returning victoriously to the starting line.
Before Maxine could answer, Tasia launched into a detailed play-by-play in one breathless, uninterrupted stream:
“That’s amazing! You must be glad you didn’t give up,” said Maxine.
But Tasia wasn’t there to respond. She was already halfway across the dell as a new counsellor counted down, “13! 12! 11!”
This is what a summer to remember looks like.
Thank you to everyone in our community for making special moments of joy, growth and resilience like this possible. And thank you to the Royal Botanical Gardens for providing an amazing camp experience for so many CityKidz this summer. You are transforming lives, one summer at a time. Thank you!