Opinion | Sharon McNally

Camp Harbor View is more than just a camp

Long Island, MA 7/02/07 Andanireliz "Anda" Baez (cq), 12, left and Crystal Pugliese (cq), 12 standing on a slab of concrete in the water during the first day of Camp Harbor View on Monday July 2, 2007.(Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff Photo) Library Tag 07032007
Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff/File
The first day of Camp Harbor View in 2007.

CAMP HARBOR VIEW is beginning our 11th season this week. In the past 10 years, we have learned a lot about operating Camp Harbor View. We know that we need 20,000 gallons of drinking water and 8,000 hot dogs for each summer session, and that we can expect to teach about 50 kids to swim for the first time in their lives.

More important, we have learned about the challenges confronting young people living in Boston. In neighborhoods across Boston, our campers and their families are often struggling to make ends meet. Many families are dealing with housing, food, and job insecurity. Many live in poverty, and all too many must confront pervasive economic disparities and racism in their day-to-day lives. The stress that ensues is profound, making it difficult for young people to thrive. And when the school year is over and summer begins, many kids have nowhere to go and nothing to do while their parents are at work.

To nurture and support at-risk young people in Boston, Camp Harbor View welcomes 900 youths, ages 11 to 14, from Boston’s underserved neighborhoods to participate in one of two four-week summer camp sessions on Long Island in Boston Harbor. Campers are asked to pay just $5 to participate in our summer camp, which allows these kids to just be kids: play without concern about their personal safety, learn how to swim, sail and explore new sports, and unlock creativity, foster new interests, and build leadership skills.


But Camp Harbor View is much more than just a summer camp.

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It is a break from the neighborhood streets — from boredom, lack of adult supervision, and concerns about safety. Camp Harbor View also includes programs and support not typically found at summer camps — like free dental and vision screenings for all campers, full-time onsite social workers to address needs of campers and their families, and year-round programming to support our kids and families throughout the school year.

All of this is made possible because there are individuals, families, and businesses who are committed to supporting promising young people living in Boston. It is thanks to Boston’s mayor, Marty Walsh, who has done everything he can to support our mission. It is made possible because the Camp Harbor View staff sees its work as a labor of love.

At Camp Harbor View, we offer our campers a connection — to new ideas, new friends, caring adults, and inspiring camp counselors. And perhaps we may also show other cities across the country how they might do the same for the promising young people living in their communities.

Sharon McNally is president of Camp Harbor View.