A Strong Reputation Built on a Foundation of Tradition
In 1891 the first Winnipeg YMCA camp was held at Keewatin Beach on Lake of the Woods, as a Summer Institute. For the next two summers the camp continued on that site, but the search for a more suitable and permanent site was ongoing.
In the summer of 1893, four men, Messrs R.D. Richardson, C.M. Copeland, W.D. Bayly Sr. and J. Ball, set out by rowboat to look for a site. For several weekends they rowed around Lake of the Woods until they found a cluster of five islands, which has become the present location of Camp Stephens.
The first camp was held in the summer of 1894 on Patton Island. Within a few years, however, it was shifted to the present site on what is now called Copeland Island.
The Camp was first named “The Lake of the Woods Institute” but was changed soon afterwards to “Camp Stephens”, in honour of a long-time President of the Winnipeg YMCA, Mr. G.F. Stephens. The names of the five islands were adopted in 1896 and were named after other important YMCA members. Copeland Island (the main island) was named after C.M. Copeland, first General Secretary of the Winnipeg YMCA and a member of the group who selected the camp’s site; Fleming Island for a Mr. Fleming, the YMCA Secretary in Brandon at the time; Patton Island for Mr. T.D. Patton, YMCA Secretary in Winnipeg from 1894 – 1901, and again from 1910 – 1916; Ball Island for Mr. James Ball, YMCA Secretary in Calgary around the turn of the century; and Sir George Island, named after Sir George Williams, founder of the YMCA.
Initially, camping at Stephens was primarily for young adults of both genders and continued to be so until 1910, when the camp began to be used primarily for boys. In 1972 a two-week Girls’ Camp session was added to the summer program. This format continued until 1980 when Camp Stephens adopted a fully co-educational program.