Over 150 children started summer camp today through Cambridge Camping, a nonprofit that provides subsidized five-week camps to kids from under-resourced families.
Cambridge Camping has deep roots in the city—launched in 1893, when the early summer camp model was just developing, the organization began as a way for children to spend a week on a farm. Decades later in the mid-20th century, it “became the go-to resource in Cambridge to connect families who were under-resourced to camps all over New England,” Executive Director Sharon Zimmerman explains.
While Cambridge Camping still helps place children at camps throughout the region, providing scholarships and negotiating down costs, 50 years ago the nonprofit began running its own camp, Cambridge Adventure Day Camp.
Cambridge Adventure Day Camp builds its programming around a different theme each year—this year’s is “Food For Thought”—incorporating relevant field trips and activities such as indoor rock climbing, canoeing, museum visits, and beach trips. The camp serves about 125 children ages 5 to 13 annually.
Twenty years later, Cambridge Camping launched a second camp, Daybreak Day Camp, which supports about 40 children with extra social, emotional, or behavioral health needs and offers a two-to-one camper-to-staff ratio. Some of the Daybreak Day Camp kids also participate in an ongoing school-year program.
Camp has always played a big role in Zimmerman’s life, she explains, and her parents met at summer camp.
“There’s a magic that happens at camp that is just indescribable unless you’ve attended camp,” says Zimmerman.
“Camp gave me a community that I couldn’t find anywhere else in my life,” she adds. “It provided a clean-slate, level playing field where you didn’t carry with you to camp the baggage that you had at school, both academic and social. Kids all came together with that same burden lifted.”
Both camps are available to families on an income-based sliding scale. The Cambridge Adventure Day Camp scale can cover up to 90 percent of the camp’s costs, according to the application. Transportation to both camps is covered, and breakfast and lunch are provided.
Cambridge Adventure Day Camp is run out of the Matignon High School and Daybreak Day Camp is based in the Fayerweather School. Both camps are comprised of one five-week session.
“All kids come for five weeks, and we believe that the relationships that kids form with adults—and with each other, but particularly adults, the mentorship that they get out of the camp experience—really can’t happen in as meaningful a way in a one-, two-, or three-week program,” Zimmerman explains.
Tickets are on sale for Cambridge Camping’s annual fundraiser on Sept. 7, which will feature live music, dancing, food, drinks, and a VIP cruise. The event will honor Patrick Ewing, a Hall of Fame basketball player and Cambridge Rindge and Latin alumnus.