Building Skills and Transforming Lives Since 1922
Dr. Dan Offord
Christie Lake Kids programs were largely developed under the guidance and direction of the late Dr. Dan Offord, renowned child psychiatrist and founding director of the internationally recognized Offord Centre for Child Studies located at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. Before his passing in April of 2004, Dr. Dan (as he was affectionately known) was volunteer summer Camp Director for 47 years and co-director of the pilot PALS program in Ottawa that led to the development of the Christie Lake STAR program. In 2001, Dr. Dan’s research, his work at Christie Lake Camp, and his advocacy for all Canadian children earned him the Order of Canada.
Christie Lake Camp was started in 1922 by a young Juvenile Court judge who wanted to take a new approach with youth in trouble with the law. Judge Jack McKinley first called his venture the Ottawa Boys’ Camp. He felt that many boys he saw in court needed “adjustment and reclaiming” rather than punishment, and wanted to create a place that would focus on “giving the boy responsibility, handling him with friendship, teaching him the general principles of good citizenship and doing so with the help of the open air.”
Soon after the purchase of the property on Christie Lake in 1923, the name changed to Christie Lake Boys’ Camp. Within a few years, the camp expanded its mandate to include boys from low-income families, who were not involved with the Juvenile Court.
The STAR Program
The founders of Christie Lake Kids always intended to keep in touch with campers throughout the year. But winter get-togethers were sporadic through the 1940s and ’50s. In the ’60s and ’70s, a modestly funded Winter Program was formalized, and began to incorporate Dr. Dan Offord’s structured skill development that was becoming the basis of the camp program. Brothers, sisters, friends, and neighbours of our summer campers became involved.
In 1985, the Winter Program became the STAR program (Skills Through Arts and Recreation). A co-ordinator was hired, and STAR expanded to offer community-based skill-development programs from the early fall to late spring. The variety of the programs and the number of children served increased substantially. Summer campers and other children from low-income housing projects were invited to attend, and their acquisition of skills was carefully tracked.