In partnership with YMCA, Camp Spaulding will reopen in June

Last modified: Thursday, February 12, 2015
This summer, Camp Spaulding in Penacook will offer just half of its usual scholarships for children from low-income families and those with incarcerated parents.

The camp, which closed in its first session last summer due to a bedbug infestation, is still owned by the Manchester-based nonprofit Child and Family Services. It will now be operated, however, by the YMCA of Greater Nashua.

Maria Gagnon, senior vice president of Child and Family Services, said this new partnership will add more programs to the sleep-away summer camp.

“It’s going to be a nice blend of Camp Spaulding tradition, but also bringing in some of the programming that the Y has to offer,” Gagnon said.

Camp Spaulding shut down during the first of its four sessions last summer, when the staff discovered bedbugs or evidence of past bugs in the majority of its 10 cabins. Gagnon said the organization spent more than $60,000 to rid the camp of its infestation and renovate much of the property. But she began thinking about a change at the camp before the first bedbug started to crawl.

“We’re a social service agency, and we don’t necessarily hold all the expertise we need to run a summer camp,” Gagnon said.

Camp Spaulding traditionally hosts about 240 kids total during four two-week sessions. In order to extend a summer camp experience to low-income children, Child and Family Services has covered the cost for most of those campers with donations. Without a scholarship, the camp fee is $1,300 per child.

The operating budget for Camp Spaulding is about $275,000 each summer, Gagnon said.

“We were providing scholarships to almost all of the children that were attending Camp Spaulding,” Gagnon said. “From the budgetary side of the shop, it became kind of difficult.”

So the nonprofit began to reach out to other camp providers, including the YMCA in Nashua and Concord. The YMCA of Greater Nashua has agreed to operate the camp and pay rent to Child and Family Services. Gagnon couldn’t say what the rent payment would be, as the official lease is still in the works. Half of that rent payment will go toward future capital improvements for the camp facility at 210 Bog Road.

As part of this arrangement, only half of the 240 campers will receive scholarships through Child and Family Services this summer. The other half will register through the YMCA of Greater Nashua and will pay the full camp fee.

“Unfortunately, I think that’s the one downside,” Gagnon said. “We will only be able to reach 50 percent of the kids we were able to reach in the past.”

The scholarships will be available on a first come, first served basis.

“We want to make sure that kids who are living in foster care, kids who are living in poverty, kids who are living in challenging situations, get to come to camp. . . . We are encouraging everybody to register early,” Gagnon said.

Children who do attend Camp Spaulding this summer will find newly renovated cabins and grounds. When bedbugs sent campers away last year, Gagnon said the staff took the season “to make sure the property is in tip-top shape.”

The state Department of Corrections and a team of inmates contributed much of the labor for free, and Gagnon said she hopes that partnership will continue this year.

“We have not seen evidence of any bugs since July, since the beginning of July,” she said. “We were in those cabins for hours on end, painting and putting in new bunks and putting the new mattresses in.”

Along with the new metal bunks will come new programs, hosted by the YMCA. Activities will include swimming and boating, performing arts, archery, woodworking, arts and crafts, high- and low-ropes courses, and horseback riding, as well as outdoor living skills and cooking, nature and ecology programs.

Josh Schupack, the new camp director from the YMCA, said he wants to draw campers “into a world of imagination and wonder.”

“It’s a very exciting time to be able to work with the old traditions and the culture that exists at Camp Spaulding already, and create new exciting opportunities,” he said.

Schupack is also the sports and teen director at the YMCA. But he attended camp for 10 years as a child, then worked as a counselor, and he said he believes strongly in the overnight summer camp experience.

“This is my favorite part of the YMCA experience,” Schupack said.

The Concord Family YMCA will also participate in Camp Spaulding this year, CEO Jim Doremus said. The Concord YMCA doesn’t offer overnight camp, but day campers will participate in Camp Spaulding activities. That program hosts about 150 kids each week.

“For both Ys, we see it as a great opportunity to serve more kids in the greater Nashua area and the greater Concord area,” Doremus said.

(Megan Doyle can be reached at 369-3321, mdoyle@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @megan_e_doyle.)