Camp Harbor View on Long Island in Boston Harbor

I got to tour Camp Harbor View (CHV), operated by Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston, and funded by the generosity of the Camp Harbor View Foundation.  Located on Long Island in Boston Harbor, CHV serves a total of 900 Boston tweens – ages 11-14 – during two 4-week sessions every summer – for $5.

Camp Harbor View

Camp Harbor View

How did CHV get started?  In 2007, former Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino and Boston businessman Jack Connors, founder of the Boston advertising agency Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopoulos (now just Hill Holliday), brainstormed ways to address the growing youth violence in Boston, especially during the summer. Menino suggested that an organized daily structured program would help. Jack remembered visiting Long Island as a kid. He knew that the site, a former military base now owned by the City of Boston, had sat unused for years. He and Mayor Menino visited the island one day and saw the potential for something great. Camp Harbor View was born. Suffolk Construction built most of the camp facilities in just 109 days. The Camp Harbor View Foundation then formed a partnership with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston to help develop curriculum and operate the camp.

When the ancient and decrepit Long Island Bridge was condemned and torn down in 2015, the challenge of getting over 500 campers/staff plus equipment, supplies, food to the island every day seemed daunting. Enter Bay State Cruise Company’s Provincetown II, which ferries everyone to the island morning and afternoon.

Took the lovely walk to board the ship, and enjoyed sunrise through the decrepit Northern Avenue bridge, passed the Moakley Courthouse:

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Adams’ courthouse quote

Institute for Contemporary Art, and marveled at the non-stop construction in an area that used to be nothing but parking lots and Pier 4 (doubleclick any photo for full-size):

School buses from all over the city bring the campers to the dock, and we all ride out through the harbor. The kids get breakfast –  today was french toast sticks, yogurt, pancakes, bagels, and fresh fruit salad – and dinner on the boat, and a hot lunch at camp.

Camp Harbor View’s core values are fun, respect, responsibility, character, courage and community. We saw all of that, and more, including Camp programming:

  1. Leadership Development – this is the staff/Leaders-in-Training wall where they earn puzzle pieces for meeting certain goals:

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2. Knowledge Is Power – here’s a hands-on engineering project where kids had to figure out how to use straws, string, tape, and a cup to lift a bunch of stones:

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3. Sports and Fitness – so many athletic fields, paddle-boarding, canoeing, sailing, high- and low-ropes courses, bike-riding:

4. The Arts – lots of arts & crafts projects in the pavilion. There’s also a music room, and amphitheater for performances:

5. Aquatics – While the island is surrounded by ocean, the shore is rocky with sharp shells under the water, and you can’t see the bottom. Kids were scared to learn to swim in the ocean, so CHV built a gorgeous pool – and more city kids are enjoying swimming and learning water safety:

In addition to these classic summer camp activities, each camper also experiences a wide variety of activities designed to build confidence, encourage creativity, broaden horizons, and help develop the leadership skills they need during school and life beyond.  CHV also hires about 70 15-year-old former campers as Leaders In Training – they get English and Math classes to reduce summer-learning loss, a stipend, job skills training, college prep, and a terrific sense of accomplishment. Many former campers spend teen years as LiTs and junior staff, and then come back as counselors during college summers.

Tribute to Mayor Menino:

IMG_8297What an impressive place and program. Oh, and the views are pretty sweet!

We climbed up the hill to see Boston Inner Harbor Light, and the ruins of the old fort:

We were ferried back to Boston on a fast motorboat. Shuttle boats make multiple trips a day to transport visitors, entertainment, and get sick kids out of the nurses’ infirmary and to home or other treatment. These decorative flags on the CHV dock actually scare birds away, solving the old bird-droppings problem!

Landed back in the city, and saw this sad little shoe floating by the commercial dock:

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Not a bad day “at the office!”

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