Four-year-old Trevon is a happy kid. His camp director Jenn says that he loves his days at the South Mountain YMCA summer Y Knots camp.
It’s a nice break for Trevon who lives in a shelter with his mother Katrina where she is only able to take him out under supervision (Katrina is waiting to win court approval to be able to care for Trevon unsupervised).
Trevon’s day care is no longer covered by the NJ Division of Child Protection and Permanency, but a volunteer who was visiting the shelter thought he would be perfect for the Y Knots camp. South Mountain YMCA stepped up by offering Trevon a scholarship.
Now, our local Y is hoping to make more kids like Trevon happy — while teaching campers how great it is to give.
“To raise awareness about our cause and teach our youth about charity each camp [with the exception of teen camp] is reading a series of short story books that teach about charity in different ways,” said Eric Stoddard, Assistant Director of the South Mountain YMCA.
“In addition to this, each camp has their own incentives to further encourage campers to raise money. For example, our Y Knots Camp has the ‘Core 4’ YMCA Superheroes visiting the camp discussing charity and our 4 Core Values. Our Summer Discovery Campers will get to put a ‘Hand Print’ on the wall for every $5 they raise, and our SOMAPY Camp will be ‘building’ a camper out of puzzle pieces as they work to raise money to ‘Bring a new friend to camp.’”
South Mountain YMCA Executive Director James Goodger said that, if every camper can raise just $20, the Y can offer camp options to dozens more kids like Trevon. “It is amazing to see Trevon, and the many other children that are able to participate in our camps and programs, thriving at the South Mountain YMCA, finding joy in new friendships and vital experiences,” said Goodger.
“When we say ‘Invest in Youth, Impact our Community’ this is exactly what we mean. Our donors and supporters make such a huge difference in the lives of children and families,” added Goodger. “Trevon’s summer at the Y, and many others, was only possible because of the belief that the community has in our cause to build strong kids, strong families and strong communities.”
“Trevon has basically grown up in this shelter. Everyone in the building is like family,” said his shelter director [we’re not using her name or the name of the shelter in order to provide Trevon and his mom with some privacy].
“But being a shelter, it’s limited interaction,” the shelter director said. “He’s not exposed to other children his age. The South Mountain Y has given him an experience to interact with youth outside, youth of different races, a whole new world…. He comes back very excited, very much having enjoyed his day and looking forward to going back each day.”
The shelter director added, “This is good for his mom too.”
While Trevon is at camp, Katrina has re-enrolled at culinary school and is working to find employment. “She can also go out into the community and get her life on track,” said the shelter director. The camp also provides an outlet for an active and bright preschooler to blow off a little steam: “They are just in a room [at the shelter],” said the director. “It’s not a big apartment.”
“Trevon is four,” she added. “They get stir crazy. They get cabin fever. They need fresh air.”
Trevon is getting all that and more at the Y. Besides swim lessons and playground time, Y Knots enjoy special themed weeks like Aloha Summer, Globetrotters, Under the Big Top, Y Rockstar and Treasure Island. Daily activities include cooking, sports, nature, crafts, reading, drama and world life. Kids have fun while learning and gaining important opportunities to socialize.
About that reading component: Stoddard had mentioned that it’s a part of the fundraising effort. He explained further: “Some of the book titles assigned to the campers include One Hen, Books for Katje, and the Spiffiest Giant. In addition to teaching the students about charity we are teaching them Level 2 vocabulary words found in each book — doing our part to prevent the Summer Slide.”
“The campers will be sent home with a few book marks that contain the Titles of the Books, vocabulary words, and some YMCA Caring Facts.”
Maybe in their summer studies, the South Mountain YMCA campers will learn that charity comes from the Latin word caritas, meaning “generous love.”
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