Editor’s Note: As part of our ongoing series introducing our CFJ partners, we recently chatted with Jessica Speer-Holmes, executive director of the Coastal Connecticut YMCA’s Camp Hi-Rock. The camp in the Massachusetts’ Berkshires is set to be the new home for Camp Hope New England, the first summer camp in the region created for children impacted by abuse and trauma.
CFJ is proud to partner with the Coastal Connecticut YMCA to bring this camp to children in our service area in Summer 2017.
Speer-Holmes has a long relationship with Camp Hi-Rock, having attended the camp as a child. She worked there as a counselor before joining its management team for the first time in 1997.
Here is some of our chat:
CFJ: Tell us little bit about Camp Hi-Rock and your efforts to help us launch Camp Hope New England?
Jessica Speer-Holmes: We’re thrilled and honored to bring Camp Hope to Camp Hi-Rock and really excited about sharing this special place. The Camp Hope campers will be out on top of mountain in the middle of one of the most beautiful places on earth. We have our own crystal clear blue lake and are surrounded by one thousand acres of conservation forest. They will be in a place I consider to be one of the most magical on earth. While Camp Hope campers will have their counselors and cabins, they will be sharing the camp with more than three hundred campers from all over the world.
CFJ: What are some of the benefits of having a Camp Hope experience at Camp Hi-Rock?
Jessica Speer-Holmes: They will be in this incredibly beautiful place apart from screen time and the Internet and be with all these wonderful caring people surrounded by nature. They will be surrounded by a group of counselors and staff who love children and will support them. For the Camp Hope kids there will also be a unique component of understanding their trauma and helping them cope with it and overcome it in a very committed way with a curriculum that’s devoted to helping them overcome their traumatic experiences.
They will also be making new friends and doing things that are part of a traditional summer camp experience. We have a high-ropes course, a full complement of water sports and swimming, and the kids will have an opportunity to try things they have may never experienced in a truly supportive environment. They will be working with a committed staff who want them to have fun, bond and learn new things and create special memories.
CFJ: As you’ve worked with CFJ planning Camp Hope, what have you learned about the children we serve?
Jessica Speer-Holmes: The thing that has impressed me is how The Center for Family Justice works with its partners to collaborate on meeting the many needs these kids have so they can overcome their traumatic experiences. They haven’t had the easiest start in life, but this camp is one way they are trying to address some of the things they have experienced. These are things kids shouldn’t have to go through, but this is part of an effort to give them back part of their childhood and help them find positive ways to cope and thrive.
CFJ: We hear the food is yummy too!
Jessica Speer-Holmes: It’s not gourmet, but it’s pretty good. We are known for our forty-item salad bar. The kids seem to like that because there’s something for everyone.