A tradition of joy: Catholic Charities' Sunset Point Camp
When asked how she felt about the reopening of Catholic Charities Sunset Point as an overnight camp for the first time since the start of the pandemic, Program Director Ivana Correia-Veiga said she is experiencing "a level of excitement beyond words."
A time-honored summer tradition that has brought joy to campers, families, and counselors alike for 103 years, Sunset Point Camp in Hull provides a carefree week of adventure, recreational play, and activities for approximately 400 children ages six to 14, the majority coming from low-income households in Greater Boston and the South Shore.
While approximately 90 percent of the campers live below the poverty line, Sunset Point Camp is designed to be an inclusive, uplifting space where children can foster new friendships and focus on having fun. Correia-Veiga said Sunset Point Camp's counselors look forward to returning every year as well, many of whom were campers themselves, now eager to share their childhood tradition with others.
"Sunset Point is a family," said one former camper, who now works as a Sunset Point Camp counselor. "I made great memories with the other kids, but my favorite memories are of the counselors who go out of their way to make us feel safe and happy. I'm excited to come back to work at camp this summer and help other kids to feel like Sunset Point is their second home."
Through the support of generous donors, the camp was able to undergo extensive renovations in 2014, adding a recreation room, indoor gym, in-ground pool, grand hall, courtyard, and more.
"We give every child in need a chance to experience, at least once in their life, an overnight camp where they are invited to just be a kid," said Correia-Veiga. "There's no discrimination. Every child is welcome."
Due to the pandemic, Sunset Point was forced to close during the summer of 2020. It was during this challenging summer that the community lost one of its beloved young campers to a sudden tragedy.
For this reason, Correia-Veiga and her fellow staff members vowed to never close Sunset Point Camp's doors again. They committed to doing everything they could to allow Sunset Point to safely and successfully reopen as a day camp in 2021 before returning to the full overnight experience for 2022.
For so many, including Correia-Veiga and her colleagues, Sunset Point Camp is a cherished home away from home, a safe haven for children to grow, expand their horizons, and create lifelong memories.
"That was our push," said Correia-Veiga. "We are now committed to safely opening and being there for our campers, no matter what."
As opening day approaches, Sunset Point Camp's staff and volunteers have been working tirelessly to offer their campers the most fulfilling experience possible this summer, organizing talent shows, treasure nights, ice cream socials, arts and crafts sessions, and waterfront activities. Among the volunteers is a group of over 50 individuals who help every year to spruce up the camp, ensuring it looks its best inside and out before the campers arrive.
Correia-Veiga said she is also grateful for the camp's partnerships with the Hingham Maritime Center, which provides the children opportunities for sailing and rowing, and with the North and South Rivers Watershed Association, which grants campers rare opportunities, like pulling on galoshes and exploring marine life or learning wilderness survival skills, such as how to build a fire.
"They're learning through play and hands-on activities," she said. "There is so much education happening while the kids are having fun."
As the daughter of two first-generation Americans, who immigrated from Cape Verde and settled in Dorchester, Correia-Veiga said she was raised in a large family and always wished she had the opportunity to attend an overnight camp like Sunset Point.
"My connection with these kids is that I am from where many of them are from," she said. "The opportunity was never given to me, but I can now give it to them and live through them, witnessing their joy summer after summer."
Campers' families pay a registration fee of just $25 to send one child to Sunset Point Camp for a week. We are grateful to all the Sunset Point Camp donors and sponsors that help us continue to give children in need a summer to remember. If you are interested in learning how to become a sponsor, please visit ccab.org/sunset.
SHANNON LYONS IS THE PR AND COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER FOR CATHOLIC CHARITIES BOSTON.