Each summer, we hire about 80 staff to serve the needs of upwards of 240 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.
Vice-President – 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 forty-five years, he has spent 32 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. He also worked for 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 have enjoyed spending their summers on the shores of Petit Lac Nominingue.
Director – Atie Waxman
Atie and his three brothers attended Camp Nominingue in the 70s. It was here that he developed his love and respect for nature, as well as his fascination with wood carving and outdoor cooking. He went to camps in Quebec and Ontario and worked at camps in the Laurentians and in Montreal.
Atie has been representing the Camp in an annual dragon boat race and fundraiser with other active alumni for years. He believes that community service at an early age builds character and a better understanding of how we are all connected. His pet project is working on a sustainable development in the Texas desert with his daughter, Ella.
His fondest memories of camp are getting his shield, going on a three-day canoe trip with his older brothers and carrying what was then a very heavy 50 lb. pack, making grilled cheese over a campfire, pony express, council ring, singing in the choir, the staff, and most of all, hanging out with friends around the tent. All these years later he is still friends with some of his tent mates and some of the senior staff from back in the day.
Atie believes that leading with purpose and humility, nurturing creativity and passion, and valuing individuality are keys to ensuring that your boys experience, enjoy, and grow at Camp. The experiences they have in social situations, understanding down-time, building independence, and improving their emotional intelligence are life-changing. And our staff and activities are all put in place to make each summer magical.
He has spent the bulk of his professional career working with teams around the world in communications, branding and marketing, advertising, alumni relations, fundraising, event planning, graphic design, film production, food-franchise operations, social media planning, and elementary, secondary, and post-secondary education. Atie lives in Montreal with Véronique and Jessy (who is excited to go to Camp) and Mylow the Morkie.
Assistant Director – Matt Cromey
Matt Cromey started as a camper in Lower Camp in 1990. After his first summer, he knew that Camp Nominingue was going to be a major part of his life. Matt was at camp every summer from 1990 to 2014. In that time he was involved in everything at camp, from waterfront – teaching sailing, swimming and diving; to canoe tripping; in the craftshop; as director of junior counsellors and LITs; as driver; in property maintenance; and as director of program and personnel from 2010-2014.
Over his 25 years at camp, Matt has been involved in the implementation of a number of improvements to systems and programs around camp, including work on the instruction program, session structure, property management and Western Night.
In the summer of 2021, Matt returned to camp during the second session and family camp as craftshop director. He jumped at the chance to be back home again. He is now thrilled to return in a full-time capacity as assistant director.
Matt lives in Ottawa with his wife Julia, whom he met at camp, and their four wonderful children: Maddy, Aiden, Tiernan & Tommy. All three boys have attended or are currently attending Camp Nominingue in the summer. They are third-generation campers with their father, uncles, grandfather, and great-uncles all having attended Camp Nominingue over the years.
In his years away from Nominingue, Matt has developed a variety of skills and lived experiences that are invaluable for camp. He has formal education in hospitality, heritage carpentry, and psychology. His certifications include Emergency First Responder, First Aid Instructor, and Firefighter Seals. He has worked in residential construction, social services, the retail/service industry, facilities and operations management, and emergency response. For Matt, Camp Nominingue is a place where youth can learn, grow and make mistakes in a supportive and encouraging environment. It is a place where every individual can: “Rise free from care and seek adventure!”
Business Manager – Elisa van Wagner
Elisa grew up spending summers at Camp Nominingue with her family.
During the late 70s and early 80s, she worked in the camp’s infirmary alongside the nurse and doctor, and began working full time as the camp’s business manager in the fall of 2002. Having spent all or part of every summer at Nominingue, she knows all about the camp and its day-to-day operations.
With her own son starting camp at the age of 7 and continuing his camper career through to becoming a staff member, Elisa knows first hand what it is to be a camper parent throughout the years. She believes strongly that, while at camp, every camper should have a rich and rewarding vacation and that every parent deserves peace of mind.
Over the years Elisa has 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!