By Marianne Salza
Hill House Summer Camp is an opportunity for children to be kids in a fun and safe environment. From skipping through the Alfond Spray Deck, playing games on Teddy Ebersol’s Red Sox Fields, and creating art at the Mount Vernon Street Firehouse, campers will have an action-filled summer from June 15 through the end of August. Hill House is encouraging families to register soon, as almost all of the weekly sessions are 80 percent full.
“Kids love our summer camp because it is a place for them to hang out with their friends,” said Lauren Hoops-Schmieg, Executive Director. “Many of our kids go to different schools. Hill House tries to keep that neighborhood feeling. Kids can hang out with their next door neighbors and be outside.”
Day Campers, ages 5 to 12, enjoy arts and crafts at the Firehouse, and playing field games on the Esplanade. Children attend educational and fun field trips to the New England Aquarium, The Arnold Arboretum, space centers, farms, Canobie Lake Park, and Sky Zone. Several days a week, campers swim at The Clubs at Charles River Park, where they are staffed by American Red Cross-certified lifeguards, as well as Hill House staff; and nearly every day, they frolic through the Esplanade’s spray deck.
“The spray deck is a great asset because on a hot day in the city, there is nothing better,” Schmieg explained.
Kiddie Campers, ages three to five, explore a variety of art mediums and outdoor athletics on the Esplanade and Boston Common to build confidence and friendships. The New England Aquarium will visit with touch tanks, and farmers introduce children to animals at the Firehouse, where little ones can enjoy puppet and magic shows.
“We try to make a comfortable and safe place for them to explore and build social skills,” explained Hoops-Schmieg. “We have a lot of sensory activities.”
When children graduate from Day Camp, they can participate in the Leaders in Training (LIT) program, for teenagers, 13-15-years-old who wish to continue at Hill House, but with a new dimension: being a mentor. This is the third year that Hill House has offered LIT for children to explore beyond their comfort zones, build their strengths, and self-reflect. They learn conflict resolution, how to play with children and have first aid training.
“There aren’t a lot of opportunities for 13-15-year-olds. This program challenges them and builds their critical thinking skills,” said Hoops-Schmieg. “This is a way that they can explore what their own capabilities are. It’s learning by doing and being around their peers.”
Teenagers gradually transition from campers to counselors as they take part in leadership workshops, in addition to planning and assisting camp activities. The LITs also participate in community service projects throughout the three-week program.
“The most successful Leaders in Training are those willing to be vulnerable and learn about themselves,” described Hoops-Schmieg, who spent many summers at an overnight summer camp where her mother served as a director.
Schmieg describes camp as being her first love. From age three-24, Hoops-Schmieg has been a camper, advancing to a counselor-in-training, to a counselor, and then administrative staff member. She was also the former director of a summer camp in the woods of Rhode Island.
“I am passionate about summer camp because you have the room to physically and mentally explore and become a full person,” explained Hoops-Schmieg. “Camp helps you be a kid, develop interests, and gives you freedom of expression.”
Register for Hill House Summer Camp and learn more about the weekly sessions by calling (617) 227-5838, visiting www.HillHouseBoston.org or the Firehouse, located at 127 Mount Vernon St.