Send a Kid to Camp: Championing Childhood Joy Through Summer Camp Scholarships

July 11, 2024

In the heart of Greensboro, North Carolina, a city where one in four children live in poverty, the Greensboro Parks Foundation is on a mission to ensure that every child has the opportunity to experience the magic of summer camp. With their “Send a Kid to Camp” scholarship fund, the foundation is breaking down financial barriers and opening doors to transformative experiences for local children.

“Children thrive in nurturing and engaging environments,” says Paula Barger, Executive Director of the Greensboro Parks Foundation. “Our mission is to help families with financial need send their children to summer day camp for a transformational experience. It’s not just about having fun; it’s about building confidence, making friends, and creating memories that last a lifetime.”

The foundation works closely with the Greensboro Parks and Recreation Department, which offers a diverse array of summer day camps tailored to different interests and abilities. From the popular community-based recreation center day camps to the specialty camps like Camp Joy and Xtreme Teen, there’s a perfect fit for every child.

The Recreation Center Day Camp, with ten locations citywide, is the department’s most sought-after program. Each week is packed with innovative activities that blend fun with learning – think games, sports, wellness education, outdoor adventures, environmental learning, creative play, and skill-building exercises. Plus, free lunch is provided daily, ensuring that no child goes hungry.

Despite being one of the most affordable options in Greensboro, the camp remains out of reach for many families struggling to make ends meet. That’s where the Greensboro Parks Foundation steps in. Their “Send a Kid to Camp” scholarship fund aims to bridge this gap, making these enriching experiences accessible to all.

For youth, teens and adults with disabilities, Camp Joy at Hagan Stone Park offers a fully inclusive traditional camp experience. Campers aged five and older enjoy regular pool trips, arts and crafts, and even a camp-wide talent show. “Camp Joy embodies our commitment to serving people of all abilities,” says Sharon Williams, Adaptive and Inclusive Recreation Coordinator at Greensboro Parks and Recreation. “It’s heartwarming to see children of all backgrounds playing, learning, and growing together.”

Teens aren’t left out of the summer adventure either. The Xtreme Teen camp, a unique offering by the Greensboro City Lakes staff, is tailored for 12-15 year-olds. Based at Lake Higgins, this week-long camp is all about safely pushing boundaries. Teens sail, kayak, hike, and climb their way to newfound confidence. They also embark on educational journeys throughout the Triad, exploring state parks, hiking trails, and even getting a behind-the-scenes look at the Greensboro Science Center.

However, at $250 per week due to travel and admission fees, Xtreme Teen is a stretch for many families. Recognizing this, the Greensboro Parks Foundation has set an ambitious goal for the coming year: to raise $35,000 for camp scholarships and enhancements. “Every dollar we raise goes directly to creating unforgettable summers,” explains Barger. “That’s why we’re reaching out to our community. Your tax-deductible donation to the ‘Send a Kid to Camp’ fund doesn’t just pay for a week of activities. It pays for a boost in self-esteem, for friendships that could last a lifetime, or hands-on experience that sparks a lifelong passion. These are the moments that shape futures.”

The impact of these scholarships extends far beyond the summer. Studies show that summer learning loss disproportionately affects low-income students. By engaging these children in stimulating, educational camp activities, the foundation is helping to narrow this gap. Moreover, the social-emotional benefits are immeasurable. “We see shy kids blossom into confident leaders, loners make best friends, and children who’ve faced challenges realize they can overcome anything,” shares Shannon Teamer, Superintendent of Recreation Centers at Greensboro Parks and Recreation. “These are the stories that keep us going.”

Local parent Maria Gonzalez attests to this. Her son, Diego, attended the Recreation Center Day Camp at Griffin Recreation Center. “Before camp, Diego was so quiet and unsure,” she recalls. “Now, he’s the first to volunteer in class. He talks about his camp friends all the time. It’s like he found his voice there.”

The Greensboro Parks Foundation’s mission is resonating with the community. Local civic organizations, individuals, and even former campers have rallied to support the cause. But there’s still work to be done. With an estimated 20,000 children living in poverty in Greensboro, the need for scholarships far outstrips current resources.

That’s why the foundation is calling on the community to join their mission. “Whether it’s $5 or $500, every contribution matters,” urges Barger. “You’re not just donating money; you’re investing in a child’s future. You’re saying, ‘You matter. You deserve this opportunity.’”

As summer approaches, the Greensboro Parks Foundation is more determined than ever to make it a season of growth and joy for every child. Through their unwavering commitment and the generosity of the community, they’re not just sending kids to camp—they’re sending them on a journey of self-discovery, resilience, and unbridled childhood joy.

In a world that can often seem divided, the “Send a Kid to Camp” fund is a powerful reminder of what brings us together: the belief that every child deserves a chance to play, learn, and grow in a safe and nurturing environment. This summer, with your help, more Greensboro children than ever will have that chance. One donation, one scholarship, one unforgettable summer at a time.

By Paula Barger, Executive Director