Each summer, we hire about 70 staff to serve the needs of upwards of 200 campers. Maintaining a staff to camper ratio of 1:3 is extremely important for the success of our program. About 85% of our staff has either been a camper or a staff member during a previous summer at Nominingue. These staff members are valued for their Nominingue experience. They ensure that our traditions remain strong, they share our philosophy and they ensure that our program runs smoothly. We also recognize the importance of hiring staff who have not grown up within the Nominingue tradition. They are extremely important in bringing new ideas and experiences to camp. They ensure that we do question our ways of doing things and that we continue to grow as a camp after 90 years of operation.
Owner – Erik Blachford
In April 2015, Erik Blachford and his wife Maryam purchased Camp Nominingue from Peter Van Wagner. Erik and his brother were campers and counsellors in the 1970s and 1980s, following a tradition established by their father and uncle in the 1940s and 1950s. Today, Erik’s sons are campers and the whole family has been attending our family camp each August.
Erik’s goal for camp is to ensure that Nominingue continue to provide young people and families with the special experience, the unique values and traditions upon which it was built, as it has since it was founded by FM Van Wagner and Hay Finlay in 1925.
The operation of the camp will continue with very little noticeable change. Grant McKenna, director, and Elisa Van Wagner, business manager will remain in charge of the camp’s operation, and Grant will become a part-owner of the camp.
Big Chief – Peter Van Wagner
Camp Nominingue was founded in 1925 by Peter’s father, F.M. Van Wagner. Peter began his career at Nominingue as at the age of seven in 1934; spent 9 years as a camper and 7 years as a counsellor. After 13 years in Banff and Calgary, Alberta, he returned to take over the camp upon the retirement of his father, and has been at the helm since 1965.
In 2012, the Van Wagner family made a difficult decision – with no member of the family in a position to own and operate Camp Nominingue, new investment was required to ensure that the Camp maintain its standard of excellence. He was delighted to find just the right investors for Camp Nominingue, Erik Blachford and Maryam Mohit.
As Big Chief, Peter still spends his summers up at camp. He leads our weekly council ring ceremonies and is a friendly and much loved figure to all campers past and present.
Director – Grant McKenna
Grant began working for Camp Nominingue in 1975 as a 16 year-old junior counsellor after attending as a camper for three years. Over the next thirty-nine years, he spent over 25 summers at Camp, filling a variety of positions including Trip Director, Section Director, Business Manager and Program Director. From 2001 to 2004, Grant was the Camp’s Executive Director. He knows and understands the Camp’s program and philosophy thoroughly and strives to ensure that each Camper and Staff Member has the opportunity to learn new skills and develop as a person during their stay at camp.
In addition to working at camp, Grant has over 17 years experience teaching at the Elementary and High School levels. He is fluent in both French and English. Recently, he served three years as the Director of Sirius Wilderness Medicine Inc., which trains outdoor professionals in wilderness first aid.
Grant returned to Camp as Director in 2010. He and his family are always excited to spend the summer on the shores of Petit Lac Nominingue.
Business Manager – Elisa van Wagner
With her own son in camp since the age of 7, Elisa knows first hand what it is to be a camper parent and now a staff parent. She believes strongly that, while at camp, every camper should have a rich and rewarding vacation and that every parent deserves peace of mind. To help accomplish this she endeavours to have personal contact with each camper and to learn their name during their stay. In doing so, along with meeting so many great children, Elisa has also had the pleasure of helping many parents get over the jitters of being first-time camper parents by taking their calls and offering assurances as to how their son is settling in.
Making sure that campers and parents have the feeling of belonging to the Nominingue family is a very important part of Elisa’s role at camp!
Assistant Director – Philippe Rioux
Philippe started at camp as an 8-year-old unilingual French speaking camper. Over the years he spent at camp, he learned English by making friends and participating in the camp’s activities. He quickly became bilingual over the first few summers that he spent on the shore of Petit Lac Nominingue. Philippe spent 7 years as a camper before joining our staff team in 2012 as a Junior Counsellor. Throughout his years on staff, Philippe moved up the ranks and became a valuable staff member. His skills with our younger campers brought something special to Lower Camp, starting as Junior Counsellor, moving to Counsellor, to Head Counsellor, before joining the Senior Staff team in 2015.
The experience that Philippe has at camp allows him to relate to all types of different situations regarding campers and staff. Having been a camper from 2004 to 2011 and on staff from 2012 to now, he is aware of the day-to-day issues that arise in a normal day at camp. From homesickness to staff fatigue, Philippe is a support for all.