The Sophie Gerson Healthy Youth (SGHY) – a New York City not-for-profit corporation – is sponsoring a record number of middle school students whose families cannot afford camp fees or any vacation to attend five nights at sleepaway camp.
The students consist of 111 students from MS 126, Manhattan (the Lower East Side/Chinatown); MS 302, the Bronx (the South Bronx); MS 140, Manhattan (the Lower East Side); and MS 167, Manhattan (the Upper East Side), and the Chinese-American Planning Council.
The students will camp at Camp Zeke in Lakewood, Pa. one of the nation’s premier summer camps. The camp offers SGHY a special week starting Aug 11 making use of the camp’s highly trained staff and outstanding facilities including the private lake.
SGHY covers all costs and expenses for the children; including fees for transportation, sleeping bags and swimsuits. Some of the children attending the program live in family homeless shelters and are unable to access the supplies needed to fully enjoy and participate at camp.
SGHY and Camp Zeke canceled the camp session during summer of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and resumed camp last summer taking all necessary precautions to protect children and staff.
All students and staff must be vaccinated, with the camp maintaining a strict bubble to minimize any exterior contamination or risk of COVID infection. All campers were PCR tested three days before their Aug 11 departure and will be rapid tested before boarding the bus home.
The experience will undoubtedly be memorable for the campers, many of whom have not experienced camping before or attended a sleepaway camp. The week is filled with recreational activities utilizing the camp’s facilities and many educators report that students come back from camp with greater self-esteem as well as improved academic performance.
“This is a week which lasts these kids a lifetime,” Alan Gerson, SGHY President said in a statement Aug 10. “For these children, it provides their only time away from concrete neighborhoods, their first time swimming in a lake, holding a frog, beholding a nighttime sky full of stars, with fun and freedom amidst nurture and nature.”