Camp Hale kids enjoy some time in the lake. (Photo by Erin Plummer) (click for larger version)
September 12, 2018SANDWICH — A summer of fun, learning, and friendships is over for the kids at Camp Hale, though there will be more fun for campers going into the fall.
The camp for children in Sandwich recently closed for the summer.
"We had a really incredible season," said Camp Director Jerrell Cox.
He said it was a healthy and safe season that brought together children from all different backgrounds.
Camp Hale has been in existence since 1900, and is currently run by United South End Settlements. Every year, kids from the Boston area and other places have come up to camp to give them a chance to meet with other kids from all different backgrounds and spend time in the natural environment by Squam Lake.
Cox himself first came to Camp Hale as a camper in 1994 at the age of 10. His two older brothers had come to camp and he was given the opportunity to come up by an alumnus.
"It was awesome because Camp Hale provided so many leadership opportunities," Cox said.
He said the camp became a staple for him through his preteen and teen years, he said he always chose going to camp over doing sports activities during the summer.
"I had sports at camp, but I also had this beautiful lake; I had friends from different parts of the world," Cox said.
Eventually, he got a job at the camp, which got him employment over the summer. He then took a job with the camp's after school program and still came back to camp over the summer. The position of camp director opened up and he took the opportunity.
Cox said the camp has so many benefits for kids.
"One of our largest benefits — we're a diverse camp and we surround kids with people from different backgrounds," Cox said. "Getting kids outside of their everyday environment and into this natural environment is very special."
He said a lot of children who come to camp don't really have access to natural spaces like Squam Lake and the greenery surrounding it.
Campers will come for two to four weeks at a time. After camp, Cox said they will return to their communities with all the experiences and lessons they learned at camp.
"It teaches them to be independent, and we challenge them," Cox said. "They are away from their parents, away from their support networks. They have to use their social skills to build a new community and make friends and solve problems."
He said the campers can transfer those experiences when they get back home, such as when going on a new team or to a new school. He said it shows them that they can thrive in a new environment.
The kids have also build close, long lasting friendships at camp.
After the summer, campers are invited to come back to the area for different events and activities like Halloween parties, ski trips and others.
Cox said the camp has gotten so much support from the Sandwich community. He said they work with Parks and Recreation Director Ole Anderson and others in town. Camp Hale kids participated in the Field Day events and barbecue during Old Home Week.
For the past few years, they have also done a float for the Sandwich Fair's Grand Street Parade. Cox said the Sandwich Fair is the camp's last youth event of the season before the water is turned off in the buildings.
Cox said the kids love being part of the fair and doing the parade, no matter the weather.
"The kids have loved it, just being here," Cox said. "We try to get our kids here every season; for them to see the Lakes area in the autumn, is beautiful."
Their neighbors especially love being by the camp.
"They love hearing our bugle; they love hearing our kids march down the street," Cox said.
He said the neighbors actually complained when they turned their bugle down. He said the neighbors have learned their songs and sing them along with the kids in the parade.
Overall, he said the Sandwich community has been amazing. They have also made some close partnerships with the Squam Lakes Conservation Society, the Squam Lakes Association, and AmeriCorps. The Squam Lakes Conservation Society recently hosted their annual meeting at the camp, which he said brought in many members of the community to see the space.
Applications for next year's camp season will open in early November. The camp is also looking to get more campers from New Hampshire and the Sandwich area.
"Any child who needs this experience is welcome to apply," Cox said. "We'd love to have more children from New Hampshire participate in our program."
More information can be found on the camp Web site at https://www.uses.org.