A breath of fresh air

David (not his real name) is a 9 year old boy who is spending his first-ever week away at sleep-over camp at Catholic Charities Sunset Point Camp. Now in its 94th year, Sunset Point Camp strives to provide children the gift of a unique summer camping experience. Located in Hull, and free for all children who attend, the camp provides children from low-income neighborhoods throughout the Greater Boston area, without regard for their race, nationality, or religious affiliation, a chance to experience all that overnight camp offers.

For so many of the children who attend the camp this is their only opportunity to escape the hot pavement and the violence of the inner city that too often marks the summer season. Many have never before been swimming in the ocean or eaten toasted marshmallows around a campfire. The camp provides children between the ages of 6 and 12 with an opportunity to escape the city, share new experiences, and make new friends. Activities include swimming in the ocean and the in-ground pool, shelling and crabbing, sports, talent shows, arts and crafts, cooking, obstacle courses, scavenger hunts, playing games, and just being with friends.

David "loves this camp." Despite his bright smile and engaging manner, David is a young boy whose health is seriously compromised by his weight. Sadly, David has so few opportunities to play outdoors in his neighborhood that he spends most of his time indoors. His inactivity thwarts all of his mom's attempts to help David lose the weight that so negatively impacts his health.

An only child, David's mom readied him for camp with everything he needed, including the CPAP machine he needs to sleep with at night as a result of his weight-induced sleep apnea. Upon his arrival, our camp nurse contacted David's pediatrician to be sure that we were correctly following all of the prescribed medical procedures throughout David's camp stay. In the course of the conversation with his pediatrician, we were asked "Is David doing anything?" Happily, we explained that David was fully participating in all camp activities, including regular walks to the beach, swimming, and playing kickball.

Astonished, the pediatrician asked if David could spend the whole summer with us! David is thrilled to be spending a second week at camp, and the Catholic Charities team will work with his mom to find more opportunities for David to enjoy the activities he has grown to enjoy once he returns home.

David has endeared himself to everyone at camp, and no one has been more touched than one of our youngest Sunset Point Camp volunteers, Agnes. Knowing how much David would benefit from a second week of camp, 9 year old Agnes generously donated a sizable amount of her own savings so that David could come back to camp.

Agnes is one of the many volunteers who have joined together to support Sunset Point Camp -- one of Catholic Charities' and the community's most treasured places. From year-round fundraising to camp cleanup, the Friends of Sunset Point do it all, so that children who might not otherwise be able to, can enjoy this special camp experience. Every Wednesday night during the camp season, many in the community join our camp counselors to host Treasure Night. Volunteers from local parishes help run games for the campers while also helping to help fill each camper's personalized pillowcase with their newly won treasures. It is a night that staff, campers and volunteers alike look forward to.

For children like David, the camp is more than just an escape from the city. It is also a place where lifelong memories and lifelong friends are created.

Go to www.ccab.org to learn more about the work of Catholic Charities.

Debbie Rambo, LICSW, is the president of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Boston (www.ccab.org).

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