Sunday, January 31, 2010

Together we can make this the best summer ever for some youth

This first appeared in The Record.

Among my favorite childhood memories is the weeks spent at an assortment of summer camps over more than a decade through my late teens.

First were the years being bused to a day-camp outside my hometown to a reservoir for a few hours of swimming and crafts. When that site was deemed unsafe and closed, the bus ride became longer – we rode a half hour in each direction to a state park for similar activities. This was overlapped by the years spent at an Adirondacks camp sponsored by Catholic Charities. Later I graduated to a camp run by the state Department of Environmental Conservation, and finally, an out-of-state football camp.

Whether I was making a boondoggle thing-a-ma-jig, singing songs with a camp counselor, learning the fine art of hunting for snipe at night, or getting instruction from an NFL player such as Joe Namath, the camps kept me outdoors, active, learning new skills, and growing my circle of acquaintances and friends. I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything, and I made sure that summer camp was an option made available to my kids each and every summer, even at times when my wife and I weren’t entirely sure we could afford it.

If I were to create a Bill of Rights for children, I might borrow a phrase from the U.S. Constitution and amend it to say that summer camp is an “unalienable right of childhood”. Such a universal right seems even more important today than when I was a child in light of technology that keeps kids glued to screens, indoors, and often secluded from face-to-face contact with kids outside their immediate circle throughout the summer.

Unfortunately, there is no such right for every child to have access to a camp experience. Many kids spend the summer home – in some cases without supervision during the day because a parent has to work – and without the organized activity, camaraderie and just plain fun that comes with camping. Much of the time, the sole reason for not participating is family finances.

To that end, The Record is going to organize a drive this spring to fund summer camp scholarships for needy area children. This will be a mid-year effort similar to our Clothe a Child fundraising activity each fall. All monies raised will go to summer camping.

Our planning is in its infancy. If you and, or your company or organization is interested in helping us raise funds, please contact me. To others looking for information on how the monies raised will be disbursed, please look for an announcement in The Record in late March.

Together we can make this the best summer ever for a significant number of local children. A worthwhile cause … I hope you agree.

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