Camp Kanawana changed Stuart McLean's life, and a new fund established by the CBC host and his family will now give other kids the opportunity to experience the "magic" of the 120-year-old camp north of Montreal.

McLean, who died Wednesday at 68, spent five summers as a counsellor at Camp Kanawana starting in 1969. 

He credited that experience with setting him on the path to his eventual success as a broadcaster and writer.

Camp Kanawana changed his life so much that he and his family established a fund that would give other kids the opportunity to benefit from it. It's called the Stuart McLean Camp Kanawana Fund.

He talked about the impact of those summers in an interview with CBC Montreal's Radio Noon two years ago.

"It was the first place, as a young person, that I felt I could contribute to the greater good," he said.

"I was able to be part of group and be a contributing part of it and I think that's really important to the growth and development of a young person."

Stuart McLean

Stuart McLean credits Camp Kanawana with teaching him independence, self-confidence and his place in the 'greater good' as a young adult. (Courtesy of Stuart McLean's family & Derek Walsh)

Free from his parents for the first time, McLean said the camp is where he learned to make decisions for himself and develop his confidence.

"It was the basis, the ground that I stood on for many years and I think it had a lot to do with the success that I was lucky enough to experience with the rest of my life," he said.

McLean later returned to Camp Kanawana in 2005 for a week and hosted one of his shows there.

Fund 'a natural thing' for McLean to do

Sean Day, regional director of camps for the YMCA in Quebec, was director of Camp Kanawana when McLean returned to host his show.

He said he understands McLean's gesture completely.

"Having lived with him for that week up at camp and having myself grown up at the camp and having lived the impact myself, I guess for Stuart it was just a natural thing," Day said.

Day said helping kids to understand their potential in the context of community and nature is what the camp is all about.

"That was Stuart's experience, and he's so kindly asked people to support making sure that any kid who wants to experience that magic can."

with files from CBC Montreal's Radio Noon