8th Annual OCAA South West Day of Service at Camp Kee-Mo-Kee
The day dawned wet on October 3rd, 2019 in London, Ontario. Not the first time an OCAA Day of Service looked foreboding at the start of the day, but things promised to improve as the day progressed. Several arborists from around southwestern Ontario arose with a destination in mind. The 8th Annual OCAA South West Day of Service was slated to be at Camp Kee-Mo-Kee and eight tree services companies had promised to help. They arrived individually, but wouldn’t remain that way for long. Trees needed attention and the crews needed to work together to make the camp safer for the thousands of children who use Camp Kee-Mo-Kee every year. A little rain wouldn’t stop them.
Calvin McCallum was the first one there and knew it was his job to build the camaraderie amongst the crews present. Far from his first OCAA Day of Service, McCallum had a hand in organizing many previous OCAA Days of Service in southwestern Ontario. He had seen how rivals in the industry became friendly over a mutual good cause. A few OCAA Days in the Toronto area proved to him the value in giving back, and he wanted to bring the experience and benefits to his community. So after the success of the first South West OCAA Day of Service at Family Services Thames Valley in 2012, he spearheaded a Day of Service in southwestern Ontario every year thereafter. Camp Kee-Mo-Kee was the 8th.
Camp Kee-Mo-Kee 2019
Jill Hodgins is the Executive Director of Camp Kee-Mo-Kee. She has a passion for the camp for a lot of reasons, not least of which is that she was once a camper there too. She fondly remembers summer days filled with fun in the Carolinian forest on the outskirts of London. But she isn’t the only one. Camp Kee-Mo-Kee has been in operation for almost 60 years. The camp sees 600 – 700 children each summer, plus 1900-2000 more school kids each year. That makes for a lot of people who enjoy the joys of camp and how it brings people together. But this past spring, some of the fun was put on hold.
Early in May, part of a 200-year-old oak tree collapsed. It slid part-way down the slope it was situated on, effectively blocking a path down to the stream below. A highlight for any camp visit is the much loved creek stomp, where kids hike down to the stream and get a chance to explore nature up close. The rest of the tree sat precariously at the top of the hill, making the stream a no-go zone until it could be removed. And estimates suggested it would be costly.
When Hodgins contacted CLC Tree Services for an estimate to remove the oak tree, McCallum immediately knew he could help—in more ways than just a single tree removal. There were other trees in need of pruning and removal, and plenty of equipment necessary for the job, making costs rise. The easiest way to bring that price down significantly, was to allow OCAA members to host their Annual Day of Service there. The only fee—lunch. Hodgins contacted the board and needless to say they were thrilled with the offer. The money saved could be funneled into other projects, like updating washrooms and the health hut, and adding accessibility features. The next step was to organize the Day.
Camaraderie in Action during the OCAA Day of Service
With a plan in place, the call went out for help. And plenty of tree services companies responded. On October 3rd, 2019, crew, gear, and lots of equipment arrived from CLC Tree Services, ConservaTree, Davey Tree Care, Lanktree Tree Services, Olympic Tree Care, Soil to Sky Tree Solutions, and Tri-County Tree Service. There were bucket trucks, mini skid steers, gators, chippers, chainsaws, and more. It was all needed and kept crews busy, while happy Camp Kee-Mo-Kee board members watched on.
Between cost of equipment, time, expertise, and the 24 crew on hand, cost of services would have been upwards of $24,000 – $28,000
It wasn’t all hard work and no play though. Crews swapped equipment and stories, and broke bread together at lunch. It was a feel good day where arborists enjoyed a rare camaraderie among competing tree services companies. And at the end of it all, McCallum and Hodgins both had the opportunity to thank those assembled for taking part in the huge undertaking.
Before crews jumped into their trucks to head back to their respective yards, there was one last thing to do. Take a final picture of everyone who helped make the 8th Annual South West OCAA Day of Service another rousing success. It is always amazing how tackling a few tree removals together can bring strangers together. Camaraderie at its finest in the arblife.
Thank you again to CLC, Conservatree, Davey, Lanktree, Olympic, Soil to Sky, and Tri-County for offering your crews, equipment, and expertise to a day worthy of note in southwestern Ontario. Many hands always makes lighter work. We wouldn’t want to do it without you.