Camp Wilvaken, on the shore of Lake Lovering, is celebrating two milestones this year. First, the camp is marking 60 years of operation and second, original founder Ken Willis just turned 99 years old. While it is fair to say that the world has changed quite a bit since a 39 year old Ken first opened the camp with his wife Val, the philosophy and ways of life at Wilvaken have stayed the same thanks to the ongoing commitment of the Willis Family. “The focus of Wilvaken is to bring people together from all different backgrounds,” explained Lara Willis, granddaughter of Ken and Val, adding that the camp provides an opportunity, “to reconnect with nature in a free spirited environment.” Lara is currently acting as co-director of the camp alongside her parents Dave and Maya, who have run the camp since 1985 when Val and Ken stepped back from the role. 2018 marks the third year that the youngest Willis will serve in this leadership position. “It’s not just a camp. It’s a place where we come to live,” Lara said, explaining that she was about ten days old on her first trip to camp and has been coming back every summer since. “I can’t imagine a summer not having been at Wilvaken. When I was growing up my parents always tried to get me to go to other summer camps and I never wanted to.” The co-director said that one of the biggest values of the camp for her is the way that, even outside of the actual multi-generational family behind Wilvaken, the broader camp community feels like a big family. “My parents talk about how they feel like grandparents already,” she laughed, adding that the camp is a place where campers are taught how to live in community, how to use conversation for conflict resolution, and where lifelong connections are forged “Imagine having a family with about 120 children,” said Lara’s Father. “You learn to deal with a lot of things.” Father and daughter both emphasized the camp’s central mission of developing life skills and cooperative social skills, with the elder Willis pointing out that the camp also has a longstanding mission of taking that cooperative idea to the international level. “20 to 25 per cent of our registration consistently comes from outside of Canada,” the director said. “They come from all over.” This year campers will be coming to Wilvaken from countries like Turkey, Germany, and Thailand, among others. See full story in the Tuesday, May 8th edition of The Record.