Sunset Point Camp: A second home for campers

Sunset Point Camp, a program of Catholic Charities Greater Boston, has been providing a summer camp experience to children from low-income families for 99 years.

Campers range in age from six to 14 years old. They spend a week at the overnight camp in Hull, Massachusetts, participating in activities that otherwise they would have no access to, such as swimming, kayaking, paddle boats, arts and crafts, drama and other recreations.

Other programs offered at the camp involve life-building skills that promote teamwork, sportsmanship, and good health. Campers get supervision and coaching from a staff that include a camp director, program director, kitchen staff, life guards and nurses. The kitchen staff are older children between the ages of 16 and 18 who were former campers. All of the staff help the campers develop a sense of leadership, self-discipline and self-esteem.

“We’re always looking to evolve, and to do more,” says Brandon Cox, director of the camp. “This year, for example, we have a partnership with Hingham Maritime Center, so twice a week we bring the kids there, and they learn about sailing and rowing and they actually get in the boats and get going. So we’re always trying to evolve and give the kids as much as we can.”

The teens who staff the kitchen also learn basic skills that prepare them for their transition into adulthood. The teens are taught to understand the details of their paychecks, how to open a bank account, the value of saving, and how to apply to a college or university.

“The teenagers are helped through Catholic Charities USA and a Walmart grant,” says Beth Chambers, director of Catholic Charities Greater Boston. “The grant, which comes through CCUSA, helps to pay our teenagers, who prepare and serve the meals and provide clean up after the meals. We want the teens to experience what it’s like to be employed and to develop good work habits.”

Sunset Point Camp runs seven, one-week sessions during the summer, as well as a few year-round programs like tutoring and clothing replacement. The overall annual budget is $200,000. The camp averages 70 to 75 children for each summer session. The cost to provide a child a camp experience for one week is $500. Sunset Point Camp charges $25 per child, although no child is turned away because of inability to pay.

Most of the costs of the camp are covered by private donations, which are supplemented through other funding streams like the Walmart grant. Another major funder is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), which is administered in Massachusetts by the state department of education. SFSP pays for all the meals of most campers, 99 percent of whom qualify for the program. SFSP ensures that the campers receive a nutritious, well-balanced meal three times a day, every day of the week.

One of the teenagers, Sherayna Louissant, who has attended the camp each summer for nine years and so made the transition to the kitchen at age 15, offers a wonderful testimony to the value of Sunset Point Camp: “The kids who come here need that experience of fun and welcoming, coming to a place where you’re actually welcomed by everyone here. We make everyone feel that we are all one, that we are a community. Sunset Point Camp is like a second home to me.” To learn more about the camp, visit here.