Leadership Development

Program Goals and Learning Outcomes

Camp Thunderbird’s Leadership Development (LD) Program gives youth an opportunity to develop outdoor adventure skills in a supportive and safety-oriented environment. Learning outcomes include self-discovery, group dynamics and management, working with children, and technical skills for successful wilderness travel… all key ingredients in developing well-rounded outdoor leaders. We do this through in-person practice supported by highly trained and experienced Y staff. Campers face experiential challenges together, work through these with their peers, and are encouraged to think about how their actions affect others. Counsellors help the group find solutions using democratic and/or consensus-based decision-making tools to work toward outcomes that benefit every member. Through deliberate practice of the Y core values of honesty, respect, caring, responsibility, and inclusiveness, this program supports youth by building interpersonal skills, greater empathy, confidence, and resilience for their future challenges. It is often referred to as “life-changing”.

COVID – 19 Safety Standards

YMCA-YWCA of Vancouver Island Programs adhere to all Public Health Orders and Guidelines and WorkSafe BC COVID-19 Requirements. Camp Thunderbird will be following government and industry approved guidelines for expedition programming, as well as adhering to BC Camping Association Standards. Learn more about our COVID-19 Safety Plan by reading the COVID-19 FAQs and contacting the camp management team directly.

2021 Program Structure

BC’s Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, currently allows day camp and wilderness expedition programming for children and youth. Traditional overnight summer camps are not allowed. For 2021, we are offering a 17-day hybrid model, combining a 12-day wilderness expedition and a 5-day LD day camp. This model will give participants all the skills and personal development that Camp Thunderbird LD Programs are famous for.

Campers need to register separately for the Expedition and the LD Day Camp.  We strongly recommend both for a full learning experience. Expedition-only options are available, however, for campers who are not based in Victoria. LD Day Camp is not available on its own.

Expedition Phase

Campers will meet, via Zoom, 8 days prior to the start of the program. Introductions, a review of the route plan, menu development, and gear choices will all be on the agenda for this important virtual meeting.

Day 1 will take place at our Glinz Lake location. Participants can be dropped off at Glinz lake or they can ride a camp bus from Victoria or Langford. This day is all about preparing ourselves and our equipment/supplies for the trip. From here, participants and staff will board a bus and travel up island. Expeditions will take place in either the Broughton Archipelago (LD Kayak) or the North Coast Trail (LD Hike).  These are areas on and around Vancouver Island’s Northern tip and are optimal due to their stunning beauty and wild environment. Hikers will enjoy ancient forests between sprawling sand beaches on the coast of the North Pacific Ocean. Kayakers will wind their way through many small island groups overflowing with rainforest vegetation and cross channels teaming with sea life, small and large. Both trips have campsites that feel like they are on the edge of the world.

While on their backcountry expedition, participants will be learning navigation, weather interpretation, camping and the other skills required for safe, self-supported backcountry travel. Counsellors and guides provide instruction, support and a “safety net” while the campers take turns being “leader of the day”, and work together to set a pace, navigate, and practice minimal trace wilderness travel/camping. The counsellors also guide discussions related to group management and care of children, to prepare participants for their time as apprentice leaders in camp programs.

These trips will be physically and mentally demanding. Each day varies and participants should be prepared for up to 10-hour days on the trail or in the boat and temperatures that could dip to single digits with heavy precipitation.

At the conclusion of the expedition phase, campers will go home for the weekend. The Day Camp portion of their LD program begins the following Monday.

LD Day Camp

The LD campers will travel to Glinz Lake on the bus with day campers and staff. They will participate in activities like canoeing, rock climbing, archery, swimming, paddle boarding, atlatl, disc golf and more, ensuring fun is high on the list of important things to accomplish.

Throughout this week, facilitated expedition reflection and debriefing is lead by LD staff. Counsellors introduce LD campers to skills for leading groups of children, and LD campers are given the opportunity to put those ideas into practice. They will shadow some camp counsellors and help lead a group of younger children for a day, with the supervision and support from fully qualified camp staff. Working directly with children and then reflecting on that experience with peers and mentor counsellors has proven to be a highly valuable element of our Leadership Development programs.

Campers need to register separately for the Expedition and the LD Day Camp.  We strongly recommend both for a full learning experience. Expedition-only options are available, however, for campers who are not based in Victoria. LD Day Camp is not available on its own.

Leadership Development as a path to becoming a camp counsellor.

The LD program provides participants with transferrable skills for working with children and in the outdoors. Many of our Camp Thunderbird counsellors spent two consecutive summers as LD campers, followed by one summer as a volunteer Program Assistant. This is our recommended path for joining the staff team.


*Early Registration for campers who attended in 2019 or 2020: Wednesday Feb 17 at 12:00pm

Open Registration for new campers: Monday March 1 at 12:00pm

*At this time we are unable to extend early registration to friends/family members of returning campers



Due to limited availability of spaces, and additional Covid-19 considerations, registration is limited to BC residents at this time.


Please review the Family Information Booklet for detailed camp information.

2021 Leadership Development Info Booklet


Registration in Expedition does not include any transportation. Bussing is available for a charge from the Downtown Y or Westhills Y.  Register in advance.  campers may be driven by car to and from Camp Thunderbird by a parent or guardian if preferred.


LD Day Camp includes bus transportation both ways each day, and children are picked up at the Downtown Y and the Westhills Y. Campers may be driven by car to and from Camp Thunderbird by a parent or guardian if preferred.

Bus Departure and Arrival Times
Please be patient, screening will be new for all of us and we anticipate it may take longer to check in campers. PLEASE ARRIVE EARLY.

Morning Drop Off

Location Time
Downtown Y 7:45am
Westhills Y 8:15am
Camp Thunderbird – driven by car 9:00am

Afternoon Pick Up

Location Time
Downtown Y 5:00pm
Westhills Y 4:20pm
Camp Thunderbird – driven by car 3:45pm

COVID-19 Screening – Before Boarding the Bus

Campers and one caregiver will be asked to arrive at the bus stop 15 minutes before the scheduled bus departure times in order to allow enough time to complete the required COVID-19 pre-screening process with all families. Screening will also occur at camp for anyone who is driven to camp directly by a parent or guardian. Please be patient. Our experience conducting the COVID-19 pre-screening last year was effective and efficient. Mask wearing is required for staff and campers on the bus.


The YMCA-YWCA of Vancouver Island is a charity dedicated to building healthy communities and will subsequently be referred to as “YMCA-YWCA”.

YMCA-YWCA  Registration Policy

The customer agrees that by completing registration and making payment into a single activity or multiple activities with the YMCA-YWCA that they immediately become subject to the activity or program specific cancellation and refund policy.

Camp Cancellation and Refund Policy

Cancellations received by May 1st are subject to a 25% administration fee of the total camp cost including future payments. All requests must be submitted by email to registration@vancouverislandy.ca. This includes refund requests due to camp space being unavailable for friends, siblings, and/or due to other summer opportunities becoming available outside of Camp Thunderbird programs.

Medical cancellations will qualify for a refund of the unused portion of the program, less a $50 administration fee. In some cases, a doctor’s note will be required, at the discretion of the Camp Managers.

No refunds will be issued in instances where a camper is removed during a camp program at the choice or request of the camper or camper’s parent(s)/guardian(s) or is dismissed from camp for contravention of the camp commitment.

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