SPRINGFIELD -- The Meeting Waters YMCA summer day camp is celebrating a half-century of caring, honesty, respect and responsibility.
Monday was the first day of the camp's 50th year of instilling the YMCA's four core values in children when the academic year is not in session. The camp offers safe and healthy activities Monday through Friday and more than 60 youngsters from 26 towns and communities in Vermont and New Hampshire are signed up to take part for at least a portion of the summer.
Tucked away at the end of a rustic and unpaved road off Route 5, the camp is anchored by 16 counselors and Director Sue Fortier, who utilize the picturesque surroundings to entertain the campers. The camp, which concludes at 4 p.m. every day, will end for the summer on Aug. 15.
"I think the environment of this facility is definitely unique -- the beautiful woods that we have that they can take advantage of, you're able to use the Black River for canoeing and certainly the thing that sort of permeates through all our activities is the focus on our core values -- caring, honesty, respect and responsibility," Fortier said Wednesday.
To commemorate the camp's 50th year, a "birthday party" has been scheduled for Aug. 7.
"We are putting together a slideshow of old photographs (stretching back nearly a half-century)," Fortier said. "We actually have children of parents who were campers, some of them will be joining us and we actually have a few board members who were campers in the early years.
Fortier, the wife of Meeting Waters YMCA Executive Director Steve Fortier, said the communities the camp caters to stretch from Westmoreland and Claremont, N.H., to as far south as Guilford. She said the camp has been held at its current location since 1985, after first residing in Saxtons River.
Nine-year-old camper Forrester Avard, of Dummerston, said his favorite part of camp is playing different sports. The camp's activities include arts and crafts, nature, archery, sports, adventure games, swimming and canoeing.
"I like all the activities, but my personal favorites are archery and sports," said Avard, who has dreams of becoming a professional soccer player some day. "I like the counselors. They're pretty funny. They're cool and they're role models."
Leo Schnipper, of Bellows Falls, agreed with his peer, and said the counselors do their best to make sure everyone has a good time.
"What I think is special is if someone is being bad, (the counselors) don't let that person ruin it for the group," he said. There are six groups with 10 or 11 kids in each.
Weathersfield resident Bailey Eddy told the Reformer she loves playing outdoors when she is on summer vacation. She said going to the camp is a lot better than staying inside on a beautiful day.
Sue Fortier, who is the Meeting Waters YMCA's program director, said a unique aspect of the Springfield camp is that it is licensed as a child care program so parents can access the Vermont Child Care Financial Assistance program.
"So many, many of our parents pay little or nothing for their kids to come to camp," she said, adding that the camp also has a scholarship program funded by donors. This year, she said, the camp has started its 50-50-50 campaign -- asking for 50 people to donate at least $50 to celebrate the camp's 50th year.
The 50th year will likely be Ryan Brady's final one as a counselor. A recent graduate of Emmanuel College in Boston, the 22-year-old is returning to Massachusetts' capital in the fall to begin law school at Suffolk University. He said he signed up to be a counselor four years ago because he thought it sounded like fun to mentor children in the fresh air.
"I was looking for a summer job and to stay outside, and my mom was actually on the board (of directors) when they hired Sue 16 years ago," he said. "I'm outside and not at a desk job. I know I'll be at one next year and like 40 years after that."
Domenic Poli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.