One week for a kid to be a kid

The Friends of Sunset Point Camp is a group that was founded five years ago with a clear purpose -- to make sure that the children who live in the region's most challenged neighborhoods have the opportunity to spend a week away at summer camp free from the worries of everyday life. One week for a kid to be a kid.

All year long, the Friends give generously of their time, talent and treasure to ensure that our children enjoy the best possible overnight camp experience. On Saturday, June 14 the Friends hosted their most successful fundraiser ever, welcoming more than 200 guests to the fifth annual "Reach for the Stars" Clambake. The clambake is held on the grounds of Sunset Point Camp, which is nestled into a residential neighborhood in Hull.

Under a full moon, the crisp, clear evening was a special one as guests heard directly about the significance of the camp from two special individuals, Marquis and Deidre. Marquis' first summer job was as a kitchen helper at Sunset Point. Now a college junior who spends his summer as a counselor at the camp, Marquis reminded guests that "It takes a village to raise a camper" and thanked all in attendance for their generous support.

Deirdre, an art teacher and part-time caterer, shared her family's story of a life-long connection to the camp both as campers and volunteers. As a child, Deidre's mother was a Sunset Point camper, and remembered it fondly as a bright spot in her summer. As an adult, she became a camp volunteer and engaged her children in support of "Treasure Night." Throughout the year, Deidre and her family prepared gifts of toys and clothing for children to win and bring home as part of this cherished, carnival-like activity that is the highlight of the camping session for most of our children.

Since its founding in 1918 nearly 40,000 youths between the ages of six and 13 have passed through the camp. Today, most of our campers come from Dorchester, Roxbury, and Mattapan with the balance visiting from other neighborhoods of Boston as well as from the Brockton area. Regardless of the community where they live, nearly 90 percent of our campers are from families living below the poverty line.

Campers are supervised and coached by a camp director, program director, kitchen staff, lifeguards, and nurses as they enjoy swimming, kayaking, paddle boats, arts and crafts, drama and other recreational activities. In addition, they are involved in a variety of programs designed around life-building skills promoting teamwork, sportsmanship, and good health, while cultivating a sense of leadership, self-discipline and self-esteem.

Thanks to a transformational gift from a long-supportive family foundation, Sunset Point Camp received its first major renovation in the winter of 2014, and is reopening for the summer with new and improved facilities. In the makeover, new siding, a new roof, windows, and new decks were added outside, and the inside of the camp was gutted and rebuilt.

With the threat of violence an ever present problem in many of their neighborhoods, providing parents with options like Sunset Point Camp for their children during out-of-school times can literally be life-saving. It provides the opportunity to spend a week relaxing, learning new skills, building personal confidence and enjoying a vacation free from the worries of everyday life.

Amazingly, a week at Sunset Point Camp affords many of our campers their first ever opportunity to head to the beach for a swim or hunt for crabs along the shoreline. They come back year after year, first as campers, then as counselors, and ask the same questions: When is Treasure Night? When do we go to the beach? Is my friend here yet?

It is because of the Friends of Sunset Point Camp as well as your generosity and dedication that Catholic Charities continues to deliver a true summer vacation -- and a whole week to just be a kid -- for thousands of deserving children. Thank you for your continued gifts of time, talent and treasure.

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Deborah Kincade Rambo is president of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Boston.

- Deborah Kincade Rambo is president of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Boston.