Weekend warriors set up camp

They laid foundations, erected walls, painted, stained, shingled and cleared debris.

They laid foundations, erected walls, painted, stained, shingled and cleared debris.

And that’s not all, said Red Deer Youth and Volunteer Centre fund development manager John Johnston of the 315 volunteers who flocked to Camp Alexo last month to help with major renovations.

Johnston said he estimated the donated labour and materials added up to about $1.2 million.

“They’re our weekend warriors, is what we’ve been calling them and they all made a difference in a child’s life. Every one of them is really a part of our Camp Alexo family now,” he said.

More than 100 of the volunteers gathered on Wednesday evening at the Sheraton Hotel in Red Deer to celebrate the completed work on the camp for children and youth.

It was a chance to thank them for their hard work and commitment, said Johnston, noting some stayed for four days to help build new cabins and facilities on the campground near Nordegg. The facility is owned and operated by the Red Deer and District Boys and Girls Club.

“It was unprecedented. I was speechless all weekend,” Johnston said.

The renovations include two new 20-person cabins, two new activity centres, a wash house, four outhouses, woodsheds, tool sheds, outdoor basketball court, walking bridges and a refinished trail system.

Homebuilder Terry Loewen and restaurateur Bill Olafson were two of the main drivers of the initiative that saw volunteers raise their hammers from June 6 to 8.

“It was unbelievable how much got accomplished. I think there was 29 projects completed that weekend. … People were out there still working at 9 p.m. on Saturday night,” said Olafson. “This camp changed people’s lives. We’re still hearing comments from adults who remember their time there and say it was one of the best times of their childhoods so it makes it even more meaningful.”

Morgan Fairholm of Red Deer was one of the weekend warriors, armed with a paintbrush.

She went to the camp as a child and volunteered there when she was a teen.

“Camp Alexo completely shaped who I am,” Fairholm said. “Seeing the new facilities for the kids that get to make the memories that I know I made is inspiring.”

Adding to the evening was a Skype call from a group of children and youth currently enjoying the summer programs at Camp Alexo to offer a personal thank you to all the volunteers.

“That’s what it’s all about,” said weekend warrior Joy Bickell, the manager of Cloverdale Paint in Red Deer. Bickell, who donated all the paint and stain, helped paint the two new cabins in the colours of the Hudson Bay Company. “It’s all for the kids.”

Camp Alexo, established 30 years ago, hosts about 450 children and youth every summer for canoeing and other fun outdoor activities.

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