Walden is a place where the years blend together. They’re countless memorable moments highlighted by special annual milestones — the Sing Song in the first nights of camp, the unforgettable Canoe Trip and the wildly popular Walden Games. And like a tree growing steadily over the years, Walden started from a small seed of an idea — an idea first planted by Ted Cole.
Coming from the Cole family of booksellers, Ted was raised with a love for the written word. Two books in particular helped shape his beliefs: Henry David Thoreau’s Walden and A.S. Neill’s Summerhill: A Radical Approach to Child Rearing. Together they inspired him to create a natural environment for children that would combine the ideals of freedom and simple living with his great love of music.
After 32 years as Director, Ted began to feel that his branch of the Walden tree had grown as far as it should. Retirement was within reach and he was ready to pass the torch to someone else.
During that summer of 2002, Ted was visited by Howie & Sari Grossinger and Sol Birenbaum, the Directors and Assistant Director of Camp Robin Hood, a Toronto-area day camp. They were searching for a site to open an overnight companion camp to Robin Hood, and they were seeking Ted’s advice. It turned out that Ted and Sol shared a lot of the same values. And for Sol, seeing Camp Walden for the first time was a magical experience — it was everything he was looking for in a summer camp!
After a few months of consideration, Ted decided that Camp Walden’s future would be best served by Howie, Sari, and Sol. So they made plans for the transition of ownership that winter. Then the next summer, Ted announced his retirement and introduced Sol as the new Camp Director starting the following summer, 2004.
While Walden has certainly evolved under Sol’s guidance, the kids still sing the same songs and the canoes still set out on the same lake, reassuring campers and parents that Walden’s traditions — and the magical moments they create — will continue as they always have. For Elaine Cole, one of those moments is the memory of her late husband Ted singing Joni Mitchell’s song lyrics, “and the seasons they go round and round.” For Sol, it was that moment he first stood on the docks and fell in love with the lake at Camp Walden. While he jokes about beating Ted’s record of being Camp Director for 34 years, he intends to do everything he can to inspire those moments that help children find strength, independence and friendship for generations to come.