WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- Members of the Dynamic Diplomats of Double Dutch, most recently seen on NBC-TV’s “I Can Do That,” helped kick off the 36th season of the Brighter Futures Summer Camp on Thursday at Ridgeway Elementary School.
Every summer, Lifting Up Westchester -- formerly known as Grace Church Community Center -- has provided a four-week day camp program for about 100 homeless and at-risk children from across Westchester County. Brighter Futures Summer Camp provides an educational and fun summer camp experience with a variety of athletic and artistic programs for children who might otherwise spend their summers on the street with little or no supervision.
Campers participate in a wide range of activities as well as special events, including Carnival Day, Olympic Days, talent shows and basketball tournaments. A typical day at camp includes water activities, games, arts and crafts, music and a reading/writing activity. A pizza party and weekly awards ceremony are held on Fridays and field trips are scheduled as funding permits.
Creativity and personal expression are important components of the program. A full-time arts and crafts instructor works with children. In recent years, the camp has offered a music program run by volunteers from Scarsdale High School in which children make their own instruments and learn about music and rhythm.
The Brighter Futures Summer Camp serves an exceptionally needy youth population, according to Executive Director Paul Anderson-Winchell. All campers are homeless or come from homes with household income levels near or below poverty level. Many of the campers have learning or emotional/behavioral problems.
Children often come to camp hungry, so breakfast, lunch and a snack are provided daily. Campers also are welcome to take food home with them. Clean clothing, new sneakers, bathing suits, towels and school supplies are distributed as needed.
“We offer a really fun environment with appropriate boundaries and expectations, constructive healthy activities and support to help these at-risk children stay committed to education and learning,” Anderson-Winchell said.
Funding for the camp comes from grants and a direct mail campaign. This summer, the camp is estimated to need $60,000 in camp scholarships, however only half of the funding has been raised so far.
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