Wood theft strikes Yellowknife summer camp for foster care children

Nearly a cord of wood was stolen from Camp Connections, a summer camp for children in care just east of Yellowknife.

'Who would, unfortunately, do something like this?' asks camp director

The campfire could be quieter at Camp Connections this summer, now that nearly a cord of wood has been stolen for the camp's supplies. (submitted by Nicole Garbutt)

A hundred foster care children from across the Northwest Territories may not be able to have their nightly campfires and roasted marshmallows this summer.

Someone stole nearly a cord of wood from Camp Connections grounds on the Ingraham Trail east of Yellowknife this week. A cord of wood is about four by four by eight feet in volume — just shy of four cubic metres. 

Camp Connections is a summer camp for children in foster care or receiving support from social services. Children are flown in or bused from all across the territory to stay for week-long sessions of sports, crafts, cultural activities, and elder teachings.

"It's a place where we can help to build their self-esteem, learn life skills and try to forget some of the problems and negative experiences of their daily lives or their past," said camp director Nicole Garbutt.

"And a chance for them to just be kids."

'My heart caught in my throat because I knew we had more delivered than that.' (submitted by Nicole Garbutt)

'Severely depleted, huge mess'

The wood was delivered last Thursday. When Garbutt checked the campgrounds on Tuesday, she discovered that the otherwise nicely stacked, pre-cut summer supply of wood had turned into a "severely depleted, huge mess" that looked like it had been tossed around.

"My heart caught in my throat because I knew we had more delivered than that," says Garbutt.

She snapped some photos and had them sent to the supplier. "He said 'No, that's not what I brought out.'"

Camp staff have noticed a big increase of incidents of vandalism and theft on campgrounds, says Garbutt.

"Every year there's maybe something little here or there and people have gotten curious and poked around. But this spring specifically is when we noticed a dramatic increase with multiple doors being kicked in, our wood stoves missing and now the wood being taken as well."

The wood that was stolen would have been used for nightly campfires for the children, where they would roast marshmallows, share stories and do sing-a-longs.

"Who would, unfortunately, do something like this?" is the question left on the minds of camp staff, says Garbutt.

Tight budget

The camp still has about half a cord of wood left, but won't be able to purchase another shipment of wood because of a tight budget, says Garbutt.

The camp paid $600 for the cord. 

But after sharing the story in a Facebook post, she says several members of the community have been donating small amounts of wood they have left over or pre-cut bags for camping trips.

"It's been real lovely."

Camp Connections is run every year by the Foster Family Coalition of the Northwest Territories, a non-profit organization.

"We just want to provide the best camp that we can for these kids," says Garbutt.

But she says the most recent theft is a big hindrance on what the camp can provide for the children. "I worry that maybe it will continue to happen, which will have a bigger impact."

The camp will start next Thursday.