Keeler and Dekard's Story

Keeler Dekard and Susan

Meet Keeler and Dekard. They're 17-year-old twins who have attended YMCA Wanakita in Haliburton, Ontario, every summer since they were seven. Keeler is one of our inclusion campers, which means he has special needs and has 1 to 1 support from a counsellor.

Over the years, his mother Susan has worked with the staff at Wanakita to enable Keeler to be more independent, and now, when he comes for a month, he spends the latter half like any other camper - sleeping in a cabin with other boys his age and participating in all the activities.

"My favourite thing to do at camp is archery and swimming," says Keeler.

Susan says camp has been a major part of Keeler's social development and it has also been transformative for Dekard.

For Dek, like his brother, camp is a place where he can be his true self. He says it's a space where the pressures of the regular world don't feel so important.

"When I go home and school starts, I don't really think I'm myself anymore. There are social standards and things you have to care about, but when you're here, you just are who you are."

YMCA Wanakita has been particularly special for the twins' relationship.

"It's kind of our special place where our parents know nothing about. It's our place to bond. We've made a lot of memories here. We're so close when we're here, closer than we are at home. The inclusion program really lets him be just like everyone else," says Dek.

At the YMCA we foster hope, growth, and strength.

We're igniting the potential to save lives by giving young people, like Keeler and Dek, the chance to shine their brightest.