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Camperships bring kids to the Pines



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Cheyenne Morrison cools off as she takes her turn on the Slip 'N Slide at Pines Community Center's Summer Camp. Donna Rhodes. (click for larger version)
July 22, 2009
NORTHFIELD — Things looked a bit dismal this spring as summer vacation neared and funds to help families pay for Pines Community Center's Summer Camp were low, but a public plea paid off, with enough donations coming in to create 36 "camperships."

A couple months back, Pines Executive Director Katie Duffey wrote a plea in the Echo asking for assistance, and the response, she said, was just wonderful.

"We ended up with 36 camp scholarships for kids," Duffey said. "Private donations, local businesses and a grant from 3-M for the Teen Camp came through, and we were able to help get these kids enrolled."

Donations came in all sizes, from $20 to $2,000. Every penny, she noted, counted towards paying for a child to go to camp.

Some children, referred by local school guidance counselors, received a full scholarship while others whose families may be struggling to meet the full amount or who may also be on state-assisted programs for help received partial scholarships.

"It's amazing how many people out there really need assistance right now," said Duffey.

To date they have received $8,566 to assist children and teens, the largest amount, to Duffey's recollection, in a few years. The grant from 3-M Corporation was especially helpful in getting the Teen Camp off the ground this year, she said.

"Last year we weren't able to have the camp for teens," said Duffey, "so we are really excited 3-M had this grant and we're able to bring the older kids here for Trip Week or Adventure Week."

Fourteen young men and women between the ages of 12 and 15 are enrolled in the teen camp. Those who chose Adventure Camp will hike, mountain bike, kayak, canoe and go to the beach for some fun and recreation. The second option is a week full of trips to Canobie Lake, the Boston Aquarium and Faneuil Hall, a Fisher Cats game and mini-golf, and finally to Hampton Beach.

With the decline in the economy these camps may be the only chance many area youth get for summer enjoyment. Families struggling to pay mortgages, rent and bills are having a hard time finding vacation money, too.

"The camp here runs for nine weeks," explained Duffey. "You can sign up for them for one or two weeks at a time, so if you do have a vacation planned, you can take that week off from the camp and not have to pay for it."

Some weeks as many as 86-90 children of all ages will be in attendance.

Last Friday the younger children were enjoying a giant Slip 'N Slide as they cooled off under the hot sun. The Tilton-Northfield Fire Deptartment visited earlier in the week and sprayed the campers with their hose for some wet fun.

Hannah Shatswell and her friend Olivia Dill said they just love the camp.

"I love the water games," said 7-year-old Hannah, "but I am looking forward to going to the beach again soon."

Olivia agreed that trips to the beach were "awesome." Ellacoya State Beach, she thought, was the best of those they have visited so far this summer. Wellington State Beach was another destination they enjoyed for some lakeside fun and adventures.

Competitions in field games, crafts and other indoor and outdoor fun are tracked on a large board inside the Community Center. Teams are named after local colleges the counselors have attended. Tied right now are the UNH Wildcats and the Colby-Sawyer Chargers. Others teams represent Dartmouth, Plymouth State University and Salem State University in Massachusetts.

Duffey said the donations from families, local businesses and trust funds have gone a long way in making summer a more positive experience for these young residents.

"Every year there is a child in need, no doubt about it. We hope we can continue to provide this camp for kids every year," Duffey said. "Our goal is to get enrollment up to 100; we're almost there. The campership money is always important in helping kids attend. We're very grateful to everyone who stepped forward and donated. We can't thank them enough."

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