Founder of Brigadoon Village remembered for his ‘passion and dedication’

The man who founded a renowned Nova Scotia camp for children with chronic illnesses is being remembered for his passion and dedication to ensuring they aren’t defined by their diagnosis.

Dave McKeage, who was the driving force behind Annapolis Valley’s Brigadoon Village, died on Sunday. He was 49.

Brigadoon Village is a camp dedicated to offering support and recreation to children, youth and families dealing with chronic health issues or special challenges. McKeage’s own battle with cancer, along with his time volunteering with The Canadian Cancer Society and Camp Goodtime, compelled him to begin a camp of his own.

“Anyone would tell you Dave’s vision for this facility that could serve kids living with health conditions really captured people’s attention,” said David Graham, executive director of Brigadoon Village.

“It was just so difficult to not get involved and not be captured by his energy and his passion for what he wanted to do for kids living with health conditions around our region.”

When Brigadoon Village opened its first camp in 2011, 38 campers living with Crohn’s and colitis attended. This year, the camp welcomed 712 kids.

“What he saw happening to the kids there, their transformation that occurred when they saw there were other kids that were like them, really I think was the seed that planted the idea that there were more kids beyond oncology that would benefit from a program like Camp Goodtime,” Graham explains.

“That really expanded into this vision of what Camp Brigadoon could be.”

Graham says McKeage’s death will have a tremendous impact.

“Some of our staff team have been with Brigadoon since the very beginning, since before shovels were really in the ground to build it,” he said, “so certainly it’s been a very difficult week.”

Graham says McKeage has helped researchers access a pool of kids with whom they can talk about their experiences, furthering research into the different elements of chronic illness and health conditions.

But at the heart of it, he says, McKeage’s legacy is going to be what he did for kids.

“It’s going to be these children who are going to grow up as adults realizing they’re not defined by a simple diagnosis, that they have tremendous potential as individuals,” said Graham.

“[The] impact that’s going to have on our region and our community is going to live on forever.”

— With files from Sarah Ritchie.

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