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The History of the Kiwanis

Kiwanis cabins

The History of the Kiwanis

The name Kiwanis is derived from an indigenous word and is interpreted as meaning ‘we build’. This was the original motto of the Kiwanis Club which began in Detroit, Michigan in January 1915 with the purpose of ‘service to others’. Windsor was the fourth to get a charter in Canada, in 1919. Although Kiwanis is known for its kids camps, the social service of the club has extended to many other areas.

 

In 1922, the first Kiwanis Summer Camp was held in Belle River as part of a campaign to assist mothers, whose husbands were killed in WW1. The decision to host girls was made because there were other camp opportunities for boys. Forty girls who had never been to the beach or enjoyed the fresh air of camping were treated to a 2-week outing which included swimming, games, and regular meals. The underfed girls gained an average of 2.5 pounds over their stay. The Kiwanis Club also offered free medical and dental treatments for all underprivileged youth.

 

In 1939, the camp was moved across Essex County to Ambassador Beach in Colchester. Ten years later, the camp was moved to its current location on Lake Erie and renamed Sunshine Point. Local lore is that the main building at Sunshine Point was once a pavilion near the Colchester Harbour and was dragged down a frozen Lake Erie by local farmers. Although there is no real evidence or record of this event, HEIRS would like to know if anyone knows more about this story.

 

It wasn’t until 1948 that boys began attending the camp. Prior to that, the Kiwanis Club supported boys by supplying musical instruments & training by bandmaster Phil Murphy.

 

One such camper was Dominic Gammiero, who came to Canada from Italy with his mother in the 1960s. Dominic didn’t speak English, and there was little money for food at home. The fun and food at Sunshine Point had such a positive impact on him that later on as a successful adult, Dominic donated $150,000 over a five-year span. He wanted to ensure that other kids would be given the same opportunity that he had, and hoped that his donation to the camp might change their lives too.

 

In the early years, funds for the kids camp were raised by Kiwanis members through levies. Over the years, this included horse shows at Jackson Park, ‘Kiwanis Builder’ newspaper sales, Apple Day, musical events & street fairs. In 1989, the Windsor Star launched a ‘Send a Kid to Camp’ fund.

 

There have been times when the camp was on the brink of closure due to lack of funding.


In 2007, realtor Dan Inverarity was approached to help with the possible closure & sale of the property. As a former Kiwanis camper, he knew what a treasure the camp was to the community. A Past-president, Dan is now the fundraising chair and camp manager.  Grants & sponsorships, along with dedicated donors & volunteers from both grassroots and corporations have kept the camp going.

 

Dan is now concerned that if the oldest camp in the region is to open for the 2024 season, a new septic system is needed. He stresses that local financial support from the community is very important.


For over a century, Kiwanis Club kids camps have been putting smiles on faces, building leadership skills and friendships, while improving their self-esteem. Dan hopes to write a book on the history of the camp, and the joy it has brought to so many kids, for more than 100 years.


Want to help support the camp? Contact Dan at 519-919-9339 or waterfrontguy@icloud.com

 


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