Rainbow Haven Children's Camp
In Cow Bay from 1923 to 1996


"Do a little kindness
Each and every day
Spread a little sunshine
All along the way"

Just after World War I, the above slogan appeared in The Halifax Herald. It was these 16 words which prompted Joseph Irwin of Port Morien, Cape Breton to send $25.00 off to the paper with a request that it be used to give a needy child a holiday in the country during the summer to come.

With that stroke of generosity he not only gave a crippled youth a happy summer that the boy had never even hoped for; he also provided the inspiration for Rainbow Haven -- one of the largest camp for under-privileged children in the Atlantic region.

Following that first summer The Halifax Herald and its sister publication, The Evening Mail, launched a "Fresh Air Fund" in order to help send 30 children on a week's country holiday.

Many of the young vacationers selected in those early years, as well as later, were children who had been blinded by flying glass in the massive Halifax Explosion of 1917. The benefits for these and the other less fortunate children chosen, and the readiness of so many Nova Scotians to participate in providing help were so obvious that the newspaper publisher decided on a giant leap -- a permanent camp where under-privileged boys and girls could receive organized care and supervision.

In 1923, Rainbow Haven Limited rented a farm property on the shores of Cole Harbour. A fully trained nurse and cook were engaged and a program of combined recreation and education was carried out.

Today, Rainbow Haven Camp still exists on this Cole Harbour land. Although many changes have taken place in the past 73 years, the camp still depends on the personal and corporate contributions to help send over 400 children for a ten day "holiday at the beach".

Fortunately, Rainbow Haven has many friends and the camp, its program and its campers will continue to grow!

The purpose of the Rainbow Haven summer camp is to provide each child with a safe, meaningful set of experiences in the great out-of-doors.

The aim of the Rainbow Haven experience is inextricably linked with the history and philosophy of the camp. Since its inception in 1919, the purpose of Rainbow Haven has been to provide a holiday in the country for those children who were less privileged and who, otherwise, would not have an opportunity to get away from the city during the summer. However, to state that a rural summer holiday is the sole aim of Rainbow Haven is inappreciatively simplistic. The "Haven Holiday" is, in fact, a catalyst. It is not an end product, but a beginning from which each child can gain new lifetime experiences and reap the benefits of physical, social and emotional growth.

The program is one of the key elements in successfully accomplishing the proposed aim. It will expose the campers to a variety of enjoyable activities and experiences. At the same time it will allow campers to experience social interaction that will encourage desirable attitudes and behaviour. The purpose of the program is not for each child to successfully acquire the skills and knowledge of the related activity, although it may occur. It is, however, to develop positive personal characteristics and values in a setting where the need for safety precautions are appreciated.

Rainbow Haven's continuing success since its inception has been made possible because of the continuing financial support of the citizens and corporate sector of the metro area, the staff of The Halifax Herald Limited and its corporate support.

Photo and history provided courtesy of The Halifax Herald Limited

Note from Web Administrator:

This history was written in 1996. Rainbow Haven Camp closed later that year. When the camp was established, there was little or no opportunity for inner city children to experience the enjoyment of outdoor life in a camping environment. Today there are many camps run by various organizations. The Rainbow Haven committee decided that the funds donated could be used to better advantage by sponsoring children to those camps. For example, if a child has a particular interest, they can be sponsored to a camp suited to their interest, such as a music camp or a hockey camp. Your donations are still needed by this very worthy organization.

For more information on the Rainbow Haven Opportunities Fund

View of Rainbow Haven from the Girl Next Door

Hi, Iím Janet York and I grew up on Rainbow Haven Lane.

I always felt blessed to have the camp in my backyard and could hardly wait for the first buses to arrive, two weeks after school was out. Even as a small child, I would see the frightened little faces of these kids on the bus, some not knowing what to expect, some old hats at it,and thinking to myself, "Donít worry, you will have so much fun.Ē They came in two week stints and rotated boys one time and girls the next throughout the summer.

My best friend, Roger, who lived next door in a home owned by the camp, was the grandson of the camp caretaker, Mr Alvin Young. Roger and I always felt we had a privilege to be on the property although there were no trespassing signs. We spent a lot of time there (surely they didnít mean us).

Mr Young would start assembling the playground equipment in the late spring and that gave us neighborhood kids a chance to play on them before the campers got there. The merry-go-round was my favorite. I spent hours, days, going round and round, thinking, singing. There were huge swing sets and slides, tunnels and monkey bars, that by todayís standards Iím sure were dangerous (I remember falling all the way down through them one time banging myself on every metal box going down). There was a pool to the far end of the camp that was set up to flush itself with fresh water at the high tide; a very unique system, but always cold.

There were three main buildings as dorms, two for the campers and one for the counselors. The other main building had the kitchen, dining room and camp co-coordinators quarters.

I wish I could remember all the co-coordinators names, but some that stand out the most were John and Bea(?). They came two years in a row and had two Saint Bernards and a Newfoundland dog. I remember them as being the coolest.

One of the campers dorms was dedicated to a nurse that drowned trying to save a child from the riptide of the bay. Her name was Madge Cruise and the plaque on the building read 1939. I remember being so fascinated with her and her story. I guess thatís why I remember her name; I think I stopped to read it every time I passed by.

The place was surrounded by a huge fence and gates that were locked. As a child I thought they were to keep bad people out; but they were literally to keep the campers in. It seemed that with each busload of children that came; within the first day or two, there would be a runaway, someone who just wanted to go home. There was a standard in the neighborhood that if you saw a strange child wandering to phone the camp; it was probably one of theirs. I can picture today the small boy I saw being cornered by some counselors. He was so scared and homesick. Another one came to our door crying to use the phone to call his mother. A few got lost and helicopters were utilized to find them. It literally was the middle of no-where, forest on one side, ocean on the other. But by the time their two weeks were up most of them didnít want to leave and couldnít wait for next year.

I would always make friends with someone, then have to say goodbye. One was a little girl named Star. She was from Halifax and she came every year... Where are you today, sweetie?

There was a definite routine to the activities of the camp. Each group prepared a concert for their last night. The parents were invited and it was open to the neighborhood. So every two weeks we would pile into the concert building and be entertained for a couple of hours and then have ice cream and pop afterwards. It was our chance to say goodbye and the next day they would be gone. I remember how quiet it was for that day in between before the next bus load arrived.

I can still hear them when I try, 100 laughing screaming kids in the back yard all the time. It was a lot more pleasant than it sounds.

Every group also had a scavenger hunt where for a day you would see groups of kids with their counselors trucking through the woods following cut out footprints and collecting clues to win a prize. I remember always wanting to do it; but of course we werenít allowed.

The camp provided employment for many teenagers as counselors; my aunt K.J was one and she spent a summer with us. (Dorothy, did you? No, I didn't.) I remember Jake Saulnier and Bradley Curwin from Halifax and a girl named Sherry? I hope some of these people and the ones I donít remember come across this site and check in. (I would love to hear from some of you)

There are thousands of campers and hundreds of counselors each with their own memories and stories. I feel I had an inside track to something very important. We were always aware that these kids were "under-privilegedĒ because they lived in the cities and this camp was the most fun anyone could give them.

There must be hundreds of photographs out there, I always thought of putting together a collection for a book, but I am so far away from it all now.

God bless the Chronicle Herald and all they did for these children.

Memories courtesy of Janet York
Janet now lives in the Annapolis Valley

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