On a freezing November day, Pip Nightingale walks through the fallen leaves at Camp Glenburn, among buildings and pathways that haven't much changed since she first saw them at age six.
"We're celebrating our 90th anniversary this coming summer," says Nightingale, who worked her way up through the counsellor-in-training program to counsellor and now manager of the YMCA camp on the Kingston Peninsula.
"It was time for our facilities to match our high-calibre programming."
For a second year, the camp is using its off-season to get work done.
Nightingale said the grounds were long overdue for basic upgrades, including changes to the septic and water systems.
Cabins built in the 1960s, which got new roofs last winter, are now getting fresh coats of paint.
Over the next few months, there will be fixes to the infirmary and the office.
Also in time for the next batch of campers, the waterfront will have new docks and the sports field will be expanded.
The third and final phase starts next year, with construction of a new dining hall to better serve more than 100 campers plus 60 staffers per week.
Will maintain rustic feel
Nightingale is a passionate advocate for making improvements without compromising the rustic qualities of the camp, about six kilometres from Kingston.
She is firm that cabins will remain without electricity, for example.
"Disconnecting from their cellphones is one thing, but they can also disconnect from their lives at home," she said.
"You can be whoever you want to be."
She also makes it clear that all the nicknames and messages scribbled onto the walls, over decades, will not be removed or painted over.
This may come as some relief to "Dimples 1972" and "Nugget 1981" or Hula, Hawkeye, Pickle and Moe.
Nightingale said alumni have a strong loyalty to Glenburn, and many campers do return year after year.
That might explain the donations still pouring in online from people using handles such as Reezo, Fraggle, Sonic and Dr. Faks.
Those gifts have helped push the fundraising total over $1.2 million thus far.
According to the Y, about 35 per cent of all campers receive some financial assistance to attend.
Registration for the summer of 2018, opens Dec. 1.