The OCA is honoured to present the names of camp leaders, who over many years, have trail blazed, built bridges and set precedents, which have assisted others in the Ontario camping industry. Honorary Life Award Nominees hold a place of special significance in the traditions and successes of our Association. New paths and bridges created and implemented by current camp professionals rest upon the solid foundations laid by these courageous pioneers. Honorary Life Members in our Association are a permanent part of our camp lives.
Recipients shall have met the following criteria:
Howie joined the Camp Robin Hood family 35 years ago and has been positively impacting campers and staff ever since. Howie was introduced to the camping world when he met his wife Sari in high school and (bravely) asked her father, Larry Bell, for a summer job. Today, Howie is the co-owner/director of Camp Robin Hood and is the co-owner of Camp Walden and Camp Madawaska.
Early in his career, Howie recognized the value of volunteerism in the Ontario Camps Association when he attended his first counsellor conference at Centennial College in 1987. Since then, he has made a tremendous contribution to the camping industry. In his younger days, Howie first contributed to the OCA as a Standards Visitor and sat on the program committee for KUMBAYAH in 1994. Over the years, Howie has taken on many roles within the OCA Board. He sat as the Kindred Representative for Day Camps within the OCA, and was elected as OCA Vice President for two terms and later sat as OCA President. His dedication to projects within the OCA has allowed for meaningful and impactful change for all camps. More specifically, Howie has contributed his leadership and expertise to lobbying against federal canoe licensing regulations, taken a lead-role on OCA by-law revisions, involvement in Early Years legislation for day camps as well as contributing to the work of the COVID-19 Task Force.
Howie is camp’s main face of FUN at Camp Robin Hood, and many will recognize him from his hosting duties at OCA events and as co-host on the Camp Owners Podcast – truth be told, he’s never met a microphone he doesn’t like. While he shines in the limelight, it’s Howie’s leadership and the personal connections he fosters with campers, staff, families and other professionals that make him the inspiring leader he is today. His leadership in developing high-value staff training and development programs at camp have profoundly impacted staff in their personal and professional lives.
Howie’s experiences not only in the camping world, but also as a former high school teacher, department head and volleyball coach, have contributed to his passion and dedication in supporting, mentoring and empowering the next generation of camp leaders – be it at his own camps or beyond. Howie has always used his educational experiences to take Camp Robin Hood to the next level, recognizing the value of traditions and also appreciating the role of innovation at camp. His passion, dedication, enthusiasm and joy for what he does is contagious and has inspired so many!
Sari has quite literally grown up at camp and has dedicated her entire life to camping. Sari’s parents, Larry & Pearl Bell, OCA legends in their own right, fostered a love for OCA volunteering very early in Sari’s career. An over 30-year career as a camp professional, has allowed Sari to use her formal training as an Occupational Therapist (OT) to provide leadership and passion at the 3 camps that she now operates; Camp Robin Hood, Camp Walden and Camp Madawaska.
If you’ve worked with Sari, you know the profound impact she has had on campers and staff with additional needs, and her influence on all members of the camp community. Combining her love for camp and her expertise as an OT, Sari has developed the inclusion program at Camp Robin Hood. Her commitment to inclusion, customer service and accessibility over the years has afforded campers and staff of all abilities to experience success at camp and beyond. Through Sari’s innovation and leadership, she has also provided excellent learning experiences for student occupational therapists, parents and organizations. In fact, Sari has inspired and mentored countless campers, staff and students, who attribute their career choices to the opportunities Sari has provided at camp.
Throughout her career, Sari has made significant contributions through her volunteer work on various boards and committees, specifically within the Ontario Camps Association. Over the years, Sari has sat on the Board of Directors of the OCA. She has also taken on leadership as the Chair of the OCA COVID-19 Task Force, Chair of the Special Needs Resource Committee, and she has also co-chaired previous OCA Conferences, including the Annual Counsellor and Director Conferences. Sari is also on the Board of Directors for Camp Awakening and has supported the York Region Special Needs Committee.
Sari has always been committed to supporting the camping industry. She has assisted camps and other programs become more accessible through program development, training, access to funding, customer service and more. She is a mentor and the go-to resource for so many camp colleagues and is always happy to share her expertise and knowledge. Sari has presented in Canada and internationally at camping and school/university conferences on a variety of topics.
While she willingly provides her husband, Howie, the opportunity to be on the stage, entertaining campers and staff on a daily basis, there is no mistaking that it’s Sari who is the backbone of the operation of camp. Her care and concern for campers, staff and families, and for so many in the OCA community makes her a most worthy addition to this honoured group.