BOSTON (CBS) – Each month, WBZ Cares highlights a worthy non-profit organization and tells the story of what that organization does for the community.
This month, WBZ Cares is focusing on Camp Harbor View, a summer camp on Boston’s Long Island that provides underserved youth in the city with unique experiences meant to build confidence and broaden horizons.
Although founded a decade ago, the camp’s inspiration started from a childhood memory of Jack Connors, a retired businessman.
“Like most things in my life, we hardly have a plan; we just decided that we were going to make it happen.” said Connors.
And make it happen he did. 10 years ago, Mayor Menino asked retired Connors if he could think of any ways to help an underserved population in the city’s 11 to 14-year-olds.
“Jack remembered going out to Long Island when he was a kid and bringing blankets out to the people that lived in the shelter. And he remembered running around, in this big field and he wondered if that was still available,” said Greg Stoddard, Director for Camp Harbor View.
“So he ‘kidnapped’ the mayor, drove him out to this big field and said ‘Alright Mr. Mayor if you will lease me this land, I’ll raise $10-Million dollars, build, fund and run a summer camp.’”
Stoddard, says Connors raised the money and built the camp on Long Island, with one main goal, to just let kids be kids.
“Play is the work of childhood. That’s how kids figure things out. There is a lot of focus in our culture about finding problems and fixing them,” Stoddard said. “Our approach is whatever the problems are, we’re going to find the strengths and feed them,” he said.
Campers can choose from a wide variety of activities including sailing, swimming, sports, cooking, gardening, robotics, music, art and dance. The camp also teaches kids about several important core values: Fun. Respect. Responsibility. Character. Courage. And Community.
Stoddard says he’s seen kids’ lives completely turned around by the camp experience.
“The kid that turned in his red bandanna in on the last day of camp. And what was written on it was ‘ I am no longer in a gang. And I learned it at Camp Harbor View.'” he said
Jack Connors told a group of donors recently that every child, no matter their background or where they live deserves the same opportunities for a happy life.
“It’s really more than just a camp,” Connors said. “It’s an experiment in social justice. An attempt to really even out the scales a bit and to provide opportunities for kids who might not otherwise have those opportunities. I want to add that, that experiment has been something of an extraordinary success,” he said.