Twenty years ago, the idea for Brigadoon Village — a camp for children living with chronic illness and located near Kentville — was in its infancy.
Founder David McKeage, a four-time cancer survivor (who died in 2018 at the age of 49), had wanted to build this camp to give kids who spent so much of their life in abnormal spaces (hospitals, clinics, and care facilities) a chance to get away from all that, and get the same summer camp experience as their peers.
It took ten years to build that facility, which opened in 2011, and it has since grown into the largest pediatric illness camp program in Canada. But in some ways, it is still incomplete.
“The plan was to have a lot of amenities that ultimately couldn’t be afforded,” says Benjie Nycum, the architect from the firm Nycum+Associates, who designed the camp. “The result was, build what we could with the amount of money that we had. But that left a whole bunch of other things.”
Now the time has come to focus on some of the things that they couldn’t include in the first build. Brigadoon Village recently launched its Shine On! Campaign, aiming to rase $12.5 million to expand the camp.
“The demand for space and service at Brigadoon has grown dramatically since we opened our doors almost a decade ago,” said Scott Flemming, co-chair of the campaign.
“The community has been incredibly supportive of Brigadoon over the years, and for that, we are so grateful. We are asking throughout our Shine On! Campaign for us all to come together again to raise funds to build a bigger Brigadoon.”
The expansion, says Nycum, will include six new staff cabins, a shower commons and staff meeting place, administrative offices, an outdoor amphitheatre and, the crown jewel, an arts centre being dubbed Dave’s Place in honour of the late founder.
“This kind of messy arts and music and ceramics building was one of the buildings that [McKeage] really wanted to have in the first place,” says Nycum, as he describes the design — a building split into three pieces and designed to look like toys on the ground.
“If you knew Dave, he was larger than life, very magnanimous, gregarious, outgoing and positive, but he was also very humble. And so, the idea is not to make these big buildings…from certain angles they are big and present, and other angles they kind of recede.”
“Brigadoon is my home away from home,” said Eva McDougall, a camper at Brigadoon and student at Sackville Heights Junior High, in a press release from the camp.
“I’ve been going for about four years, and every year I have an incredible time and make tons of new friends — people who understand me and how hard it can be to have epilepsy. Making more space for campers is incredible.”
The end result, says Nycum — an architect who is more used to designing medical facilities than summer camps — is a space that forgets it’s a medical camp.
“It tries to be natural, and grow and evolve naturally,” Nycum says, describing the camp. It was, he says, a fun design challenge.
“It’s not orderly, like a military barracks. There’s open spaces — it feels a bit scattered, but everything’s deliberately placed with how you get through it. You might have swimming lessons, and you might have canoeing, then you might have archery — so you have to keep your kids moving through.”
The campaign will run until February 1, 2022. From private donors, Brigadoon has already raised $10.9 million, and the construction of the expansion is already underway; donations now will help make sure the work gets finished and the camp can once again open for the 2022 season.