Long before she became a popular actress, Tonya Lee Williams attended youth and summer camps. So she knows they offer variety and the opportunity to grow, especially for young people with special needs.
Established in 1994 by the Association for the Advancement of Blacks in Health Sciences, Camp Jumoke is the only camp of its kind in Canada that serves the unique emotional and health care needs of children with sickle cell disease.
“I missed a lot of Christmas parties that my friends had in Los Angeles this weekend, but I would rather be here supporting a worthy effort that involves kids and the Black community,” said the California resident who is best known for her role as Dr. Olivia Winters on the soap opera, “The Young and the Restless”.
Accompanied by her mother Cora who lives in the GTA, Williams was presented with a Trailblazer award at Camp Jumoke’s 16th anniversary brunch last Sunday in Mississauga.
“My presence here today has a lot less to do with being an actress and more to inspire young people about what’s possible,” said Williams who was also the keynote speaker. “We all face obstacles at some time, but it’s how we struggle to overcome these challenges that make us who we are. I get a lot of requests to be at events, but when it has to do with children or the Black community, that touches my heart. My hope is that my presence here will help to raise awareness about the good work this organization does.”
Jumoke campers receive full financial support to attend the camp at Wenonah in the Muskoka region.
“I think you learn a lot about yourself when you go to a camp,” Williams, the founder of the ReelWorld film festival, said. “When you are young, I think you need to be with other kids, feel your independence and learn how to deal with things in your own way. I am a big supporter of any camp, especially since they also take you out of the city and connect you with nature.”
Bowmanville High School student Kesten Petgrave was presented with the Camp Jumoke Bev Mascoll memorial scholarship created in 2004 to honour the late entrepreneur and philanthropist. He’s the 12th recipient of the $1500 award presented to a student with sickle cell disease.
“I was able to experience Camp Jumoke for the first time this past summer,” said the 16-year-old who is currently being homeschooled because of a sickle cell disease-related illness. “I will always remember the summer of 2010 when I was able to explore the wilderness, gain new experiences and establish lasting friendships with people who truly understand me.
“As a young man with the disease, I often shy away from more adventurous activities. However, attending Camp Jumoke provided opportunities for me to face new challenges, develop my self-esteem and independence and discover first-hand the wonders of nature…I look forward to representing and giving back to Camp Jumoke, a place where I was unconditionally accepted and given the freedom to soar.”
Community Leader awards were presented to former Ontario Conservative party leader and Rogers Cable chief executive officer John Tory; CP 24 remote host/anchor Nathan Downer and FLOW 93.5 FM morning hosts Devo Brown and Melanie Martin.
York University’s Black Alumni chapter co-founder Michelle Hughes; The Brothers Golf tournament founders Brian Breedy, Chris Linton, Hayden Leacock and Ian David; Camp Wenonah; Novartis; Toronto Police Service 13 Division and the Professional Association of Interns and Residents of Ontario were recognized with Supporter awards.
Camp Jumoke’s former president and secretary, Glyne Rollock and Rose Gibbs respectively, were presented with Service awards.