Looking for a different kind of summer camp experience for your kids this summer?
Look no further than REACH CNY’s Camp Green Teen, a day camp for 10- to 15-year-olds based at Liverpool Community Church. The camp is aimed at helping teens make healthy decisions for themselves and their surroundings and making them aware of the many unique facets of the Central New York environment, according to program coordinator Christina Mills. The camp’s activities are almost too numerous to mention. They range from a visit to the Onondaga Lake restoration site to fishing to an egg drop to a zipline and ropes course to discussions about healthy eating and local food.
“We’re doing so much,” Mills said. “It’s all about having fun and learning, too. We’re going to be doing very active learning.”
All of that learning is central to he mission of REACH CNY, a nonprofit organization dedicated to making the community healthier. REACH is an acronym that stands for Resources, Education, Advocacy and Collaboration for Health. In large part, the mission of REACH focuses on maternal and child health. Camp Green Teen actually falls under REACH CNY’s Comprehensive Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention program.
“One of the pieces of what we do involves youth development, and this is one of those youth development aspects,” Mills said. “It’s great that you can go out and educate kids on how not to get pregnant, and this is really an essential piece of that. You have to give them lots of reasons not to get pregnant. Give them something to be passionate about. Give them adults that they can talk to. Camp is a way to do that.”
The idea for Camp Green Teen actually came out of a grant proposal that Mills and her supervisor wrote last summer when REACH CNY was competing for a Honda Foundation grant.
“We basically came up with the idea of a STEM summer camp,” Mills said.
Mills wanted to create a program that would allow at-risk teens access to a science and technology camp that would also provide them with an opportunity to learn more about the unique aspects of the Central New York environment — Onondaga Lake with its complicated ecological history, the plethora of local produce available within a short driving radius, the proximity to SUNY ESF and numerous state parks, reservations and historical sites and more. In order to facilitate the camp, Mills began reaching out to local businesses.
“We reached out to people like SUNY ESF, Parsons, Honeywell, the MOST — all the people we thought might be able to help us in some regard,” she said. “We wanted some help in determining what kinds of things we should include, and we thought they could help in terms of the educational offering for our campers as well as providing financially for the camp. We started gaining these exciting partnerships through all of these interactions.”
While REACH CNY didn’t get the Honda Foundation grant, Mills and her supervisor were unwilling to drop the thought of the camp entirely.
“The idea for the camp was such a good one, and we had built all of these relationships and gained so much support from the community that we couldn’t just let it go,” Mills said. “We decided that we had to make this work. And we have.”
Through a grant from the Onondaga Lake Partnership as well as corporate and individual sponsorships from Wegmans, the Syracuse Center of Excellence and many more, Camp Green Teen was born.
“With their support, we’ve made this camp a living, breathing thing,” Mills said.
The first session of Camp Green Teen runs from July 9 to 27, and the second session starts July 30 and runs through Aug. 17. Each sessions will have 25 campers. Camp is $400 per three-week session, and REACH CNY is providing sponsorships to kids with financial need who would like to attend camp.
“We’re accepting kids from all over,” Mills said. “Anybody can go. We’re trying not to turn anyone away. Our initial goal was to provide a summer camp experience for anybody that wanted it, regardless of their ability to pay, and we’re trying really hard to accommodate everybody that we can.”
In addition, REACH CNY is accepting donations to support campers.
“We’re desperately seeing donations so that we can do that,” Mills said. “We have one family that’s going to get evicted at the end of the month, and they have two little boys that want to go to camp. But our funding is completely tapped. So we’re trying to figure out a way to get those kids into camp so they can forget their circumstances for five minutes.”
If you would like to donate or if you have a camper who would like to attend the second session of camp (the first session is full), visit REACH CNY’s website at reachcny.org.
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.