Four summers ago, Brightspot and the YMCA of Metropolitan Washington formed a partnership that offered 10 low-income children from local chapters the chance to attend one week of sleep-away camp at YMCA Camp Letts in Edgewater, Maryland. Since starting its scholarship program in 2013, Brightspot has sent 115 children to Camp Letts. In recognition of this continued and expanding commitment, the YMCA presented Brightspot with the 2016 Youth Development Award at its Annual Celebration on Thursday, October 27.
Built along the banks of the Chesapeake Bay, YMCA Camp Letts provides children, particularly those in need, with an amazing opportunity to experience the outdoors and grow as individuals. During a week filled with new skills, new friends, and new adventures, campers are able to freely express themselves and simply “be kids.” Not only do they have a unique opportunity to interact with their peers free from cell phones and iPads, but they are also exposed to an incredible depth of culture. The camp hires an international staff from all corners of the world, and each day spotlights a different nationality teaching the campers about its unique history, values, and traditions.
In early spring, qualifying children from around the area submit a short application to Brightspot detailing why attending Camp Letts would be a special opportunity for them. This year, Brightspot received over 100 applications for 40 scholarships. After reviewing the applications, however, the selection committee was stuck at 41 campers. Unable to turn down an 8-year-old named Oscar, Brightspot employees decided to pass the hat and collect the additional money to fund the 41st scholarship. In less than 30 minutes, over 75 employees donated $8,000, which funded another 10 campers to attend Camp Letts.
Each year, campers and parents send letters detailing the positive effects of the Camp Letts experience. Often, these letters describe the skills learned or experiences had at camp like learning to swim, riding a horse, or conquering the ropes course. Some notes, however, touch on much deeper topics like regaining confidence after a difficult school year filled with bullying or gaining independence during a child’s first time away from home. Enabling these opportunities is central to Brightspot’s mission to provide low-income children with meaningful, life-changing moments.