Back in the late fall, I announced that Parris House Wool Works was going to choose a worthy non-profit to support in 2017. I knew that I could not give much – Parris House Wool Works is still finding its feet – but I wanted to give something, as much as I could. I got a lot of absolutely great suggestions through the company page and my personal page, and I hope that by putting those threads out there all of those organizations got a little boost. But ultimately, something really clicked for me just this month when my friend Betsy Brown posted an appeal for a girls’ camp here in Maine. Betsy works at this camp, knows its strengths, its benefits, and most importantly, its girls.
Let me tell you a little bit about me, and it may become clearer why this cause hit me just right.
When I was a little girl growing up in southern NJ, I spent summers on Little Sebago Lake in Gray, Maine with my grandparents. Many of you have read one of the most popular posts I’ve ever written on that experience. If you haven’t, it’s here. At any rate, I was phenomenally fortunate to be able to leave a situation in NJ not without personal problems and pressures and spend my summers lakeside with people who showed me unconditional love, who believed in me without exception, and where I could have new and empowering experiences like swimming, hiking, learning about plants and animals, cooking and baking, or just having the time to reflect. Later, while raising my own sons, I would bear witness to the summer camp experience at Camp Hinds on Panther Pond in Raymond, Maine. “Hinds,” as so many of us call it, is a Boy Scout camp where Scouts from all over the country spend weeks or more in the summer. These boys are coming from a variety of life situations, and the experiences at Hinds can be life changing for them in the best possible ways. My third son, Peter, an Eagle Scout, spent the most time there, but all of my sons experienced it in some way.
Fast forward to just the past few years when I have taught at the Squam Art Workshops, which is basically a wildly creative summer camp for grownups, attended mostly by women. If you want to know what that was like, you can check on my previous post here. I titled that post, “And the Universe Said Yes” because that is what it was like for me…decades…as in four decades…after my experiences on Little Sebago with my grandparents, I still needed and benefited from the empowerment (there’s that word again, but it’s irreplaceable in this context), camaraderie, unconditional love, and art and skill building that are the hallmarks of Squam.
And where do I go when I need to be creative, centered, feel my best about myself, and maybe discover more about myself? I go to our own cottage on Little Sebago, Sunset Haven, and allow myself to breathe.
The benefit of a good summer camp with a loving staff, especially for children and young people not normally exposed to nature, empowering skills and activities, or even broad and caring acceptance, is immeasurable. I know, because even though my “summer camp” experience was in a private home, it saved me in a number of important ways.
Some of the kids who need this experience most come from families who can not afford to pay for it. One two week session at the camp I am about to introduce you to costs $1,450, which, to me, seems like a bargain given everything that this camp offers. Take a look for yourself as I introduce you to West End House Girls Camp on Long Pond in Parsonsfield, Maine.
This introduction to West End House Girls Camp is taken from their web page:
Welcome to West End House Girls Camp. We believe in the power of camp to change lives.
For many girls, summer camp isn’t in the cards. That’s where West End House Girls Camp (WEHGC) comes in. Building on the 100-plus year history of Boston’s West End House, WEHGC offers need-blind summer camp opportunities for girls and young women from all walks of life, many of whom wouldn’t otherwise have this experience.
WEHGC opened its doors in 2011 alongside the West End House Camp (for boys) on Long Pond in Parsonsfield, Maine.” We now support over 140 girls per summer and have plans to grow to accommodate over 300 girls per summer.
What do girls get out of our camp? On the surface, the things everyone gets from camp: Sunshine. Laughter. Campfires and new friends. But for these girls, camp is also a chance to feel safe, be themselves, and experience a judgment-free zone – things they may not experience elsewhere. They learn to make independent, responsible decisions when faced with challenges.
Ultimately, our goal is for campers to develop in a variety of ways. Whether it’s new skills, self-confidence, or a side of themselves they may not have known before, we want them to carry something special with them beyond their days at camp, into the real world – life-changing experiences.
I would encourage you to go their website and surf around. Look most carefully at the “Values” page, where you will find a list of everything we need more of in this country and this world today, and perhaps some of the things these girls need most in their lives as well. Their testimonials about what the camp has meant to them are here.
Girls and women need to know that they are valued, that they can achieve at a very high level, and that in spite of the challenges they face, they have within themselves the power to make a better life for themselves. No matter what childhood situation we are coming from, we need to know that, and more importantly, be shown that. I believe that West End House Girls Camp does exactly that, and I believe we are at time in America where this is as vitally important as ever.
I have made an initial pledge to West End House Girls Camp for $1000 this year, with a goal of another $450 if I can which would round out the cost of one entire two week scholarship. I am humbled by the fact that I can not yet give more, but it’s a start, and if I can surpass the $1450 goal with the kind of growth I’m looking for this year, I absolutely will. Chances are also good that I will not feel as though my support of WEHGC is over at the end of the year, and I will continue my support in to the future, hopefully in bigger and better ways.
If this is something that interests you as well, you can find the West End House Girls Camp donation page here. I will be bringing you news and updates about the camp throughout 2017, especially on our social media. You can follow them on Facebook by clicking here.
Thanks for reading, and I hope you will be moved to either support WEHGC also, or some other worthy nonprofit of your choice. Our country and our world need a heavy dose of all that is right, good, empowering, and compassionate, one person, one act, one donation, one hour at a time. It’s up to us.
Happy hooking! – Beth