Fifth Annual Camp Shriver To Be Held In Honor of Mrs. Eunice Kennedy Shriver
April 23, 2010
Camp Shriver Staff
For a fifth year, the relative quiet of summer at UMass Boston will be replaced by the laughter and play of over 100 local children who will be attending the annual Camp Shriver at UMass Boston. Thanks to continued financial support from corporate and foundation donors, and the efforts of the entire UMass Boston campus community, the campers will be joining us from July 6 to July 30 for another fun session of swimming, soccer and making friends.
Camp Shriver, a free day camp for children from Boston, Brockton, and Quincy, began with a phone call in 2006 from Eunice Kennedy Shriver to Gary N. Siperstein, Director of the Center for Social Development and Education (CSDE) at UMass Boston. Mrs. Shriver was hoping to create a camp in her honor at UMass Boston in celebration of her 85th birthday. Like the original camp, which Mrs. Shriver began in the backyard of her Maryland estate in 1963, UMass Boston’s Camp Shriver provides summer recreational opportunities for children with intellectual and developmental disabilities, but with an important difference: UMass Boston’s version is fully inclusive where children both with and without disabilities play, laugh, and learn alongside each other. What began that very special summer has grown and touched the lives of hundreds of campers in the surrounding communities.
“Perhaps the greatest factor in the success of the camp has been the support and commitment of our staff. Our counselors, coaches, and volunteers have become like a Camp Shriver family, and we all look forward to our annual reunion,” says Siperstein, who adds that the overwhelming majority of counselors and coaches return each year to take part in camp.
Camp Shriver, currently the only fully-inclusive summer day camp in Massachusetts, has attracted local and national attention. It has been featured in Camping Magazine, several scholarly journals, in the Boston Herald, on New England Cable News, and on National Public Radio’s Only A Game. Camp Shriver has welcomed visits from Senator Edward Kennedy, Boston Mayor Tom Menino, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, and Mrs. Shriver herself with her sons and grandchildren. And in November 2009, the inclusive model of Camp Shriver at UMass Boston went worldwide with the opening of Camp Shriver at Kenyatta University in Nairobi, Kenya, founded by Peter Bukhala, a Eunice Kennedy Shriver fellow who visited Camp Shriver at UMass Boston last summer and returned to Kenya to replicate it in his home country.
“The fact that the model was moved so seamlessly across the Atlantic,” says Siperstein, “shows that regardless of their culture or their abilities, when children come together and participate in the shared experience of summer camp, they play, form friendships and have fun. It’s universal.”
CSDE and camp staff are now preparing to welcome campers for the upcoming summer with outreach to local public schools currently underway, and ongoing planning between staff in numerous departments across the university. “Camp would not be possible without the support of our campus,” says Siperstein, “and everyone always works hard to give shape to the spirit of public service that is so ingrained in our community.”
This year’s camp is especially important to the UMass Boston community given the passing of both Senator Kennedy and Mrs. Shriver last summer. “We are dedicating this year’s camp to continuing her legacy of support for the children and communities we serve,” says Karen Friedman, Assistant Director for Administration and Community Services for CSDE, “and we need the continued support of our local and national partners to continue that service.” While Camp Shriver has received the generous support of Gillette/Proctor & Gamble, Bank of America, and the National Inclusion Project for the summer of 2010, additional support is needed. Last year Camp Shriver received over 400 applications for only 100 spots, “which led to us having to make some very tough decisions. We would like to be able to admit everyone, but even with the support we receive we still have limited resources. Every dollar we receive helps us give another kid the opportunity to laugh and play and grow.”
So this summer as the basketballs, soccer balls, and water noodles make another appearance on campus, and the athletic fields echo with the sounds of childhood, everyone at UMass can take pleasure in welcoming the campers to our backyard and showing them a great time.
For more information about Camp Shriver, or to become a sponsor, visit www.csde.umb.edu/shriver.