Canadian Red Cross transitions its iconic PEI summer day camps

Topics: Prince Edward Island
CHARLOTTETOWN | March 25, 2022

Day camps program to the lifesaving society

A program started in Prince Edward Island more than 75 years ago offering summer camps to teach swimming and other water safety skills to Island children and youth will soon have a new look, as the program transitions from the Canadian Red Cross to the Lifesaving Society Prince Edward Island.

In January, plans were announced nationally to have Red Cross Swim and Lifeguard programs across the country transition to the Lifesaving Society over the course of 2022, allowing the Canadian Red Cross to focus on other key programs and surging humanitarian demands, including domestic and international disaster relief, pandemic response, first aid and CPR training, opioid harm reduction, and various community health programs.

Since the PEI summer camps were part of the Red Cross Swim program, that transition is under way now too.

For the Canadian Red Cross, it ends an era that began in 1946 in Prince Edward Island when – under the direction of prominent Islander Evelyn Cudmore – camps offering swimming and water safety lessons were launched with support from the provincial government. This would prove to become a highly successful effort to reduce what at the time had been among the highest provincial drowning rates in the country.  From humble roots in PEI, the Red Cross Swim program gradually expanded across Canada and, over the ensuing decades, provided swim training and lifesaving skills to more than 40 million Canadians coast to coast.

Since their inception, the camps have been offered in multiple locations Island-wide every summer with the exception of the past two years when COVID-19 safety protocols including social distancing and masking prevented the level of close supervision and contact necessary to ensure the safety of all participants.
While transition of the program has begun, camps will not be offered in summer 2022. Lifesaving Society PEI is working to resume the camps beginning in 2023.

“My involvement with the Red Cross started with the summer day camps program years ago and I share the enormous pride our organization feels for what we accomplished over many decades," said Corrine Hendricken-Eldershaw, PEI provincial manager of the Canadian Red Cross. "I’m grateful to the generations of staff and volunteers who dedicated themselves to creating a program of the highest standard, and I'm pleased that it will continue under the Lifesaving Society, which is a respected organization with a well-established presence in PEI and which shares our passion to prevent and reduce drownings and aquatic-related injuries."

“Both organizations are dedicated to keeping Canadians safe and these iconic summer camps have contributed substantially to that effort for generations,” said Jeremy Coffin, president the of Lifesaving Society Prince Edward Island. “We are proceeding with plans to resume the camps in the summer of 2023 to continue the history of teaching Island children and youth to be safe in, on and around the water. The camps will incorporate the Society’s national water safety training programs and will help develop the aquatic instructors, trainers and lifeguards of the future.”

Staffing of the summer camps was carried out by seasonally hired staff and volunteers, so there are no employment implications for any Red Cross personnel. Equipment used by the Red Cross for the camps such as personal flotation devices, canoes, kayaks, paddles and boat trailers, as well as proprietary information on the administration of the program will also be transitioned to the Lifesaving Society PEI.
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