Every year, Camp Recruiters build excitement for the upcoming HFH Summer Camps season by hosting Family Fun Days at all three HFH family residences.
The events offer parents and kids the chance to enjoy fun giveaways, snacks, and activities while hearing from Camp Recruiters about HFH Summer Camps, which provide a free sleepaway camp experience to children who have experienced homelessness in New York City.
At Williamsbridge’s Family Fun Day, prospective campers also heard testimonies from some of HFH Summer Camps’ most influential promoters—former campers.
“Camp last year was fun,” said Jenae, 10, who attended HFH Summer Camps last year and is looking forward to attending again this summer. “We had activities like art, nature, swimming, and more. I’m really excited to go back there.”
Jenae successfully recruited one of her friends to attend camp for the first time this year by telling her stories about special activities like Carnival Day, which brings together campers from Camps Lanowa and Wakonda for a day of bouncy houses, dunk tanks, and more.
“I like to explore and I’m an adventurous person,” Jenae explained of her enthusiasm for HFH Summer Camps, noting that her favorite camp activity was art. “It’s really fun and I like to do creative stuff there. I learned how to do a lanyard called box.”
Jenae was also excited to reunite with the staff and campers she’d met the year prior.
“I miss the counselors and I hope some of my friends that I made last year will come,” she said. “And the Teen Leaders—they’re really good. They help us a lot. It’s so fun there.”
Jenae was referencing the Teen Leader Program, an initiative of HFH Summer Camps, which trains former campers in leadership and team-building skills, while also offering them experience as counselors-in-training.
Julio Colón, a former Teen Leader and Counselor who now works as a Camp Recruiter, was on hand for Williamsbridge’s Family Fun Day to offer families information and reassurance about HFH Summer Camps.
“It helps me to be a better recruiter because I know the experience,” Colón explained of his interactions with parents as a Camp Recruiter.“ So if they have any questions about camp, I know how to respond because I lived the experience both as a camper and a counselor.”
Colón, who first attended HFH Summer Camps at the age of 12, remembers his time at HFH Summer Camps fondly, and as a Camp Recruiter, he is motivated by his desire to help more young people benefit from the experience.
“Camp is really awesome,” he summarized. “I hope every parent gets to know that and that every child gets to have that experience.”
For many campers, HFH Summer Camps’ two-week sleepaway experience is their first time away from home for an extended period of time.
So for families concerned about how their children will adapt, Colón takes a personal approach.
“I tell them my experience,” he said. “I tell them my life.”
One returning camper in attendance, Julian, 12, still anticipated some homesickness in his second year at HFH Summer Camps. However, he was more excited than nervous, as he reminisced about the previous year’s activities, friendships, and festivities.
“I’m going to miss my mom because I’m not used to that stuff—but when I went last year, it was fun,” he said. “Now going this year, I’m not scared anymore.”
While Julian described himself as an “indoors person,” he especially appreciated the chance to disconnect and embrace the natural beauty of Harriman State Park, where Camps Lanowa and Wakonda are located.
“Every single day is like a new day,” he explained of the camps experience. “I like looking at the animals and seeing deer. I like swimming in the water.”
This reflection coalesced with Julian’s perception of HFH Summer Camps as something of a refuge—a chance to unwind, relax, and have fun with new friends.
“It’s lots of fun. Just joy,” he said. “No sadness, no madness—just joy.”