Funding dries up for Catholic Charities summer camp

BOSTON -- As the first buds of spring bloomed across New England, Greater Boston’s low-income communities learned that little is sacred in a collapsing economy, and that even their children’s summer camp is a luxury they might not be able to afford.

On April 27, the president of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Boston, Tiziana Dearing, confirmed that its Sunset Point Camp in Hull would not be opening its boarding houses this summer for the first time in 90 years. According to Dearing, the decision to suspend the six-week program this summer was due to a lack of funds.

The camp, which costs around $214,000 to run each summer, was funded in previous years largely by the gift of a single benefactor, said Dearing.

Unfortunately, that benefactor was not able to provide the funding for the camp this year and Catholic Charities has been unable to obtain alternate donors in the tight fundraising environment.

“Everybody is making tough decisions in this economy and so are we,” said Dearing.

The decision has left the organization clambering to find affordable alternatives to accommodate the hundreds of youngsters from inner-city neighborhoods who rely on the camp to escape the city for a week each summer.

Dearing said their search has led them to look at several area camps, but that their fees were much more costly than Sunset Point’s $10 per week.

“The fees were just more than most of the families we serve were going to be able to pick up, especially in this economy,” she said.

Despite initial setbacks, The Salvation Army’s Camp Wonderland in Sharon, Mass. has offered to take over 200 of Sunset Point’s campers this summer, for a nominal $65 fee, said Major William Bode, the Divisional Commander of the Massachusetts Division.

“As faith-based agencies, we are doing our best to meet people’s needs,” said Bode.

“Tiziana (Dearing) shared with me their concern with the children not being able to be served, so I said ‘maybe we can help out,’” Bode said. He added, “They just need to contact The Salvation Army or go to Catholic Charities and they can give them directions in regards to how to contact us.”

Dearing said they are working to offset the increased costs to the families and that while the kids will not be spending time in Hull this summer, the children will continue to receive services from Catholic Charities in a number of ways.

“The camp is only one part of what we do for the families,” said Dearing. “So, we continue to wrap ourselves around them and they continue to be in our sphere--just not at the camp this year.”

According to Dearing, there has been a tremendous outpouring of community support in response to the need to suspend the camp this summer.

Dearing and others staff members at Catholic Charities are currently pulling together a committee to launch a fundraising campaign. Their goal is not merely to reopen next year, but to ensure an even longer life for the camp.

The goal is, “to make sure that we have pulled together enough commitment to know that we can operate the camp for a few years at a time rather than living summer to summer,” said Dearing.

On whether or not the camp will be reopened next summer, Dearing said: “That is our hope.”