Changing the lives of children in NYC

Q&A with The Bowery Mission’s Mont Lawn Summer Camp staff

The Bowery Mission’s Mont Lawn Summer Camp was in full swing the past two months. We couldn’t be more thankful for our friends and partners who are making a positive impression in the lives of children who come from struggling families and tough neighborhoods across New York City.

Seven days really can change the direction of a child’s life. One mom (and former camper) recently shared…

Mont Lawn was a pivotal part of my childhood. It taught me great leadership skills and a multitude of other life skills. It was such an epic event to be able to have my girls become a part of the Mont Lawn experience. I am proud to say my oldest daughter will be a part of the Counselor in Training program and she’s so excited. Thanks so much, Mont Lawn!

Children created exciting memories at our Summer Camp and relationships that will last a lifetime. They were exposed to new opportunities like learning how to rock climb, shooting a bow and arrow and some even learned how to swim!

This year’s theme for Summer Camp was Crossroads.

In addition to the fun parts of camp, many of the campers grow to make better choices in life. Sometimes being with other children for an entire week can create conflict, but those are learning opportunities for kids to learn self-control, patience and communication skills — small steps that make a big impact.

Mont Lawn Camp Directors, Andie and Sarah, share, “Perhaps most important of all, beyond the lessons and the fun, is the love that boys and girls experience at camp.

We want every camper to know, without a shadow of a doubt, that they are loved — by us, by friends like you and by God. Our prayer is for the kids to take home a little bit more faith than they came with — not because of an emotional decision but because of the tangible love they felt throughout the week!”

Mont Lawn Camp is like a family and our donors are part of what makes this family so special. Read more about Summer Camp from our Q&A with Andie and Sarah.

Sarah (left), Assistant Director of Mont Lawn Camp, and Andie (right), Direction of Children & Youth Program

Q: What do you look forward to the most?
“ The best part of camp is always the kids: seeing their faces again, inviting their friends to Summer Camp, and remembering what they learned the year before. Even passing the swim test they failed three times the year before. Growth!” — Sarah

“The moment they get off the bus when they arrive at camp, there is so much energy and excitement. Especially for kids who come back, camp is really their happy place. There is just so much joy when we welcome them. BIG smiles.” — Andie

Q: If you were a camper for a day, what would you do?
“The pool and the slip n’ slide, which are coincidentally our kids favorite things at camp too. Do I love the slip n’ slide? No, you just get grassy and smell like soap! But the kids just LOVE it and you get to race and enjoy the experience with them. And I love teaching the kids how to swim because it’s not something they get to do back home. There isn’t a pool they can easily go to. Teaching them how to blow bubbles or have them learn how to float on their back for the first time. Those moments are just so fun.” — Sarah

“The pool is impactful too because a lot of kids are scared. I feel like many of the bonds I’ve made happened in the pool, helping the kids do something that just takes so much trust. To be there for them and walk them through it, you become that person to help them overcome fears and you have a special connection throughout the week.”— Andie

Q: What’s the most rewarding part of Summer Camp?
“Seeing counselors take ownership. For example, when a counselor for the first time has a kid who’s homesick and he has no idea how to deal with it, I get to show them how to comfort the child. I later see them provide comfort to a child and then teach others how to do the same. It’s really cool because I remember when I was a counselor in those moments, and now I get to be a part of others’ journeys.” — Sarah

“It’s so rewarding when you see the counselors understand the vision of Mont Lawn Camp. It’s happened every year during the last week of Summer Camp, when they say ‘I don’t want to go back to my regular life. I want to keep doing this!’ Several staff have changed their majors to work with kids or to go into social work, just because of their experiences here. It’s hugely rewarding to see this impact on their lives and see our own work multiply too.

Also, moments where our campers overcome fears or where we can help kids cope with whatever challenges they’re going through. We deal with a lot of behavior issues at Summer Camp, but when we can give them coping mechanisms and see them truly work, it’s a victory.”— Andie

“Yeah, it’s really cool to see kids take small steps that have a big impact. The other day, there was girl about 7 or 8 years old, and she had been getting into fights with other kids. We sat down and talked about other choices she could make instead of yelling or fighting. I suggested to her to stay close by her counselor and that if something upsets her, she could tell her. The next day, I saw another camper hit her and she started to raise her arm, but she stopped and said ‘I’m going to tell my counselor!’ I was proud to see her exercise self-control and to choose an alternative solution instead of violence.”— Sarah

Q: Is there something you want our supporters to know about Mont Lawn Summer Camp?
A: “I never went to camp before and so I never understood the power of it until I started working here. But seeing what a difference one week can make for a child is mind-blowing. Away from their situations, they get to have opportunities to discover their passions and gifts, and learn other ways to cope with challenges.” — Andie

A huge thank you to everyone who makes Summer Camp possible. The biggest gift we can give our kids from our City Camp / New York City neighborhoods is to enable them to do something positive they wouldn’t normally be able to do, get out of the city, and have new experiences.

“We always say to our children, staff and volunteers that Mont Lawn Summer Camp is a family. That one week of camp creates a family relationship. Parents will call after camp and ask if their kids can come back, or ask about counselors. Donors are part of this family too by making Summer Camp possible. It’s amazing to know our family extends beyond what we can see and that there are supporters praying for us and giving to make this happen.” — Sarah

The fun doesn’t end here! The Bowery Mission’s Children & Youth programs provide year-round follow up and loving mentor relationships for New York City youth. Learn more about our Mont Lawn City Camp.