The Maine Children’s Home for Little Wanderers has sent underprivileged children to summer camp for more than 40 years.

Even though we’ve had our summer camp scholarship program for nearly half a century, I know that some parents in our community might be learning about our summer camp scholarship program for the first time.

I also know that a business owner or leader in our community may read this article and want to help.

As development director at The Maine Children’s Home for Little Wanderers, I’ve helped raise money to send kids to summer camp for six years. I am motivated by the kids we reach with our program.

A parent of a sixth-grade boy from Benton told us, “I would like to thank all of you for making camp possible for my son. His teacher said he is a different kid this school year. He was also just elected sixth-grade class president.”

Over the years, I have heard several stories similar to this.

A teacher from Warsaw Middle School in Pittsfield once said, “Please thank all of those whose dedication and hard work made camp a reality for some of our students. Their efforts do make a difference in the lives of children.”

If you’ve ever been to summer camp, you know what it’s like. Think about the friendships you formed and memories you made that will last a lifetime. I’m proud to say that many children have enjoyed a positive camp experience through our partnerships with camps throughout Maine.

The concept behind our scholarship program is to give at-risk children an opportunity to develop social skills and leadership qualities, grow more independent and become more adventurous and willing to try new things.

This summer we’re sending scholarship recipients to three overnight camps — Camp Susan Curtis in Lovell, Camp Mechu-wana in Winthrop, Camp Fair Haven in Brooks — and two day camps — Camp Tracy in Oakland and Julia Clukey’s Camp for Girls in Readfield.

Each year, applications for our summer camp scholarship program are sent to a number of school districts with instructions to pass them out to the students on free or reduced lunch. In Kennebec County, that number has grown to 52.8 percent of students and, in Somerset County, to 59.1 percent. Also, the social worker network is alerted and many of them help their clients apply.

Applications are received at the Maine Children’s Home in Waterville and children are signed up for camp on a first-come, first-served basis. As donations are received, parents are called in to complete the application process and choose the camp and program that best suits their child. Generally, it costs $250 to sponsor a child for a week of overnight summer camp. Families are income-qualified at 133 percent the federal poverty guidelines.

Two years ago, we sent 139 children to camp. Last year, we sent 102 children and overdrew the scholarship account by $13,000. Because of the sluggish economy, donations have been down for the past couple of years.

This year, I want to help educate members of our community about this program so they can spread the word to parents. With some of the recent support we’ve had from the community, I believe we can reach our goal of sending 150 children to camp this year, but it will take a lot of work before the end of May to reach the needed $37,500 in donations.

So far this year, we have received $17,500 in donations from businesses and individuals, and several small grants, and, as a result, 65 children have been registered for summer camp.

For more information or to make a donation, visit our website, www.mainechildrenshome.org.

Steve Mayberry is the development director at The Maine Children’s Home for Little Wanderers, 93 Silver St., Waterville, ME 04901.

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