A life changing experience for Camp Glenburn bursary winners

The YMCA of Greater Saint John’s Camp Glenburn is more than just a summer camp for youth – it’s a place where full potential can be reached.

This sentiment was more than evident on a warm August morning at Camp Glenburn when three youth were presented with bursaries. Peter Heelis, 15, and Ben Smith, 11, were awarded the David Walker Memorial Fund while Ella Fitzgerald, 15, was given the Leslie E. Bruce Memorial Bursary. These funds cover 100% of the fees for the Leadership Program for the selected recipient.

When asked what Camp Glenburn meant to them, each camper talked about the adventure and life skills camp provided them with.

“It’s so fun – like every day is a new day,” said Ella Fitzgerald, daughter of Sherry and Derek Fitzgerald of Rothesay. “You change as a person when you come here. It’s awesome…Some people come to camp really shy, and then they like come out as a person and who they really are.”

The David Walker Memorial Fund is in memory of the camper fondly remembered by his camp name, ‘Fyn’. David spent many happy summers at Glenburn as a camper, Counsellor In Training (CIT) and as staff.

“They gave him the nickname Fyn because he was such a good swimmer,” said David’s father, Julian, who was at Camp Glenburn to present bursaries to Peter and Ben.

David loved the outdoors and it was at Glenburn that he honed his outdoor skills – swimming, hiking, climbing, working as a team and making friends. After his death in 2011, David’s family and friends established a fund to support a deserving camper in developing their skills in outdoor leadership by attending Camp Glenburn’s Leadership program.

Leslie was known to everyone as ‘Fee’, in reference to a song by her favourite band, Phish. She was an active Glenburn camper and staff member who was deeply involved in environmental education. A natural leader, Leslie inspired many others to do their part in respecting the environment. To honour her work and lessons, Leslie’s family offers a bursary to a deserving camper who is passionate about the natural world and other environmental causes.

Leslie’s energizing spirit and zest for life is something her father Michael remembers most. After presenting the bursary to Ella, it was clear Michael was happy the bursary was going to a recipient with the same qualities as his daughter.

“Choosing Ella for this bursary was definitely the right decision,” he said.

The memories of David and Leslie are palpable as you walk into the Staff Counsellor cabin near the entrance of Camp Glenburn. On all four walls, the ceiling, and basically every nook and cranny are the nicknames of past campers – whether it’s stenciled in pencil, carved or splashed on with paint.

“Wow,” exclaimed Ben as he walked into the cabin and saw the hundreds of camp names. “This is really cool. This one is really old – it’s from 1972!”

This was Peter’s fifth year at Camp Glenburn. The Fredericton resident was a CIT this summer and next year, all CIT’s come back as counsellors. Peter says he was super excited to learn First Aid and work towards his lifeguard certification. He also said he had many fantastic hours on the water.

“I was on a five-day canoe trip on the St. Croix,” said the son of Pierre Heelis and Shannon McGinn. “We also did a three-day hike as part of the Fundy footpath.”

Peter, who’s camp name is ‘Webster’, had a lot of family and friends who came to Camp Glenburn and they encouraged him to try it out. Peter said he had a good feeling about camp very early on.

“There’s something called CIT selection day and I came here and probably had one of the best days of my life. I met some people and they were all really nice. I just knew I could make friends and it would be forever.”

Ella is also a CIT after coming to Camp Glenburn for the first time in 2020. She said everyone has been so welcoming and she’s felt at home, despite her initial thoughts when getting dropped off at camp for the first time.

“I was scared to leave the car when I first came here,” said Ella, who is known as ‘Smokey’ for her fire-building prowess. “Now, I don’t want to leave.”

Ben, son of Ruth Ellen Smith and Shawn Brewer of Saint John, says his mother went to Camp Glenburn and so did his uncle. Ben said it was during Christmas a few years ago when he heard of Camp Glenburn for the first time.

“I didn’t know what this place was, I didn’t know anything about it…It was at Christmas where I opened up a present…and I saw a Camp Glenburn thing saying you’re going to Camp Glenburn. I said, ‘what’s this?’, and my mom was like, ‘I went there like 35 years ago so I thought you could go too’. So, I was like, ‘okay’, and here I am today.”

Now in his fifth year, Ben agrees that every day is an adventure at Camp Glenburn.

“There’s a lot to do. I like the kayaking, swimming,” said Ben, who doesn’t have a camp name yet.

Peter concluded that receiving a bursary to help cover costs of camp is something he’s grateful for.

“It means so much because there’s this cost…I’m young but I care about my parent’s money and I didn’t want them to spend too much. I’m really thankful.”

For more information on both of these bursaries and to apply for 2022, visit our website: