The sun hasn’t set on Sunset Point Camp

If you have read The Pilot, The Boston Globe, or The Dorchester Reporter over the last couple of months, you may have heard that Catholic Charities has suspended its operation of Sunset Point Camp for this summer. I’d like to take this opportunity to talk with readers about that.

First, a little more about the camp. Sunset Point is on a wonderful patch of land in Hull, nestled in a supportive community. We have run a camp there for 90 years, bringing kids from across the archdiocese for a one-week, overnight camp experience. The 350 -- 400 kids we serve every summer range in age from six to 12. Most, but not all, are from Boston itself. Many, but not all, come from near- to extreme poverty, and the families pay no more than $10 to attend. Activities range from art, to sports, to swimming, to board games and camp competitions. Our counselors come back year after year out of the joy of working with these kids.

Sunset Point is also a way for us to reach out to, get to know, and then continue to serve families that need Catholic Charities all year round. We help the kids’ families get support from our Basic Needs services. We work with parishes to provide all the families toys and presents at Christmas. Campers also often get new clothes, or a coat and mittens. While the camp lasts a week, the care we give families lasts all year.

Second, we only suspended the camp itself, and only for this summer. We will continue to provide the families who have participated in previous summers with wrap-around services, and intend to raise the money required to reopen the camp next summer. It was an extremely difficult decision to suspend Sunset Point. The bequest that had been supporting it for the last few years ran dry just at the time that the economy, and thus the fundraising environment, grew worse. This is a year in which all nonprofit organizations have to make tough decisions. We were no different.

Third, we have successfully placed all of our campers in other camps for this summer. Last week’s Boston Globe article said nearly 100 kids were still unplaced. It was actually just a handful by then, and we have camperships available for those kids now. Between great collaborative support from other nonprofits, funding support for camp scholarships -- other nonprofit camps cost significantly more for families than Sunset Point, even at reduced rates -- from camp supporters new and old, and a lot of dedication from the Catholic Charities staff, we have not left our families without an alternative. Our kids will go to camp this summer.

Fourth, the outpouring of support for reopening Sunset Point next summer has been tremendous. One of the key principles of Catholic social teaching is solidarity, a sense of fundamental connection and responsibility for each other. I have been moved by the expression of solidarity generated by this news. Total strangers are asking, “How do I help?” They care that these kids have opportunities. It warms the heart, and strengthens the faith.

Finally, I am optimistic about Sunset Point for next year. I see at least one strong funding prospect for reopening the camp next summer, and the potential for support in future years. I do not want to open Sunset Point for one summer, only to face the prospect of suspending it again in the future. We will work hard to ensure that we have sources of funding for the camp for multiple years. We not only have current campers who want to go to Hull, but younger brothers and sisters who will want to go in years to come.

Tiziana C. Dearing is president of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Boston.