Yes, there really was a Sherwood Park! That’s where it all began in 1946.
In early 1946, Don Franco, and two other teachers, decided that local children should have a program where independence and growth could be fostered in a fun outdoor setting. We got our namesake from Sherwood Park, the North Toronto location where Camp Robin Hood was born that very first summer. In 1946, Day Camping was a novel concept making us the first privately established Day Camp in Canada. The founders started with 20 children, a few staff, swimming instruction at Sunnyview School, and rainy day programs at St. Clements Church. Our new concept quickly attracted many more families and as we grew two new partners were added – Marlene Sachter and Bob Weaver.
CRH became the first program of its kind to fully integrate children with special needs; an unheard of concept at the time. By 1960, we had outgrown our Sherwood Park home and had to find another site. Our first big move was to Maryland Gardens (known as Sportsland Park) at Highways 400 and 7. This large park and recreation area boasted the largest man-made pool in the world – in fact it was an Olympic-sized pool in width and many times that in length. CRH occupied a large private acreage on the site plus 1/3 of the pool. It was here that, Larry Bell was hired to direct the swimming program; establishing it as the flagship activity for which CRH has become so well known and widely recognized. Pearl also joined the team that summer as the camp nurse; similarly establishing our renowned ability to provide exceptional health and wellness services for our families. After just one summer Larry and Pearl were hooked, and the founders, captivated by the young couple’s leadership and commitment to each child, made their decision to retire an easy one.
In the winter of 1964 the owners of Sportsland Park informed us that the property was going to be redeveloped to make room for the construction of Hwy 407, and we would have to find a new home (it only took 40 years to build that highway!). What a mad rush! We looked all over the GTA – King, Caledon, Buck Lake, etc., etc. Finally, our secretary Virginia connected us with the former owners of our Markham site and after endless hours of work (Larry wasn’t great with a hammer but he was a great helper) we were able to open with one pool in operation, the pond ready for canoes, the barn “passable” for rainy days and a tent city waiting for our campers. With an outstanding leadership team and highly motivated young staff the first summer in Markham was the true beginning of Larry and Pearl’s legacy.
Since those early years our site continued to grow into the wonderful camping complex you now see on Reesor Road (formerly the 10th Line). We have added buildings, state-of-the-art activities and additional pools. The introduction of MVP Baseball Academy in the late 1980s lead to the now popular Robin Hood Sports Academy.
Throughout our long history and growth, we never abandoned our goal of fostering independence and emotional growth in a fun, outdoor, high-spirit camp setting. We remain committed to each child’s unique path to personal growth and well being. In fact Larry and Pearl’s family has grown too. After growing up at camp and spending many years working in almost every possible role, Larry’s daughter Sari and her husband Howie Grossinger have taken over as the Owners and Directors, making it the focus of their professional life. Under their outstanding leadership, our program continues to evolve and grow. In 2003 we added Camp Walden and Madawaska Camps to the Robin Hood family, but as we grow we take pride in maintaining the same values that we had when we first started with 20 kids way back in 1946.
This history was based on an article written by Marlene Sachter, Former Owner & Director with details taken from the Larry & Pearl Audio recordings (recorded for the occasion of Larry & Pearl’s 50 years at CRH)
Our history highlights how we have stuck with our core values through every transition and evolution of our program. Our camper families constantly provide us with wonderful and positive feedback, but we know that there’s always work to be done. Whether it’s changes to our bus routes, adding new activities, enhancing our facilities or improvements to our communications, we constantly strive for perfection. It’s how we ensure that Camp Robin Hood is your family’s best choice for a summer Day Camp, now and into the future.