Level Ground Initiative Gearing Up for Summer 2024 with Additional Collaborators

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New camps, new community partners and the same energy and enthusiasm on the part of both mark preparations for the Level Ground Initiative’s summer season.

Registrations are underway and, thanks to successful experiences, nearly every 2023 Level Ground camper will return to camp this season – in several cases with the addition of younger siblings.

The Initiative was founded in 2018 to offer tuition-free camp experiences for youngsters from Maine’s immigrant and refugee communities who otherwise would be unable to attend camp. In 2024, 16 camps have offered space for such campers and the number of community partners identifying and placing campers also continues to grow.

Mike Douglass, director of Camp Bishopswood, has welcomed Level Ground campers since the Initiative’s inaugural year. At that time, Douglass says the climate in Maine was “a bit more toxic” for immigrant and refugees. “We did it because we believe all kids should get a summer

Young Level Ground camper enjoys paddle boarding at Camp Bishopswood

camp experience and we knew not only would a LG camper benefit from a Bishopswood experience, but we also knew there was a lot that campers would bring to our community.”

Camille Ridge Naldini, the youth development and experience director at Agassiz Village, another participating camp, wrote in an email that welcoming Level Ground campers was an “easy decision.” The children and families that Level Ground serves “have historically suffered from an opportunity gap,” Naldini wrote. Providing a camp experience “aligns with Agassiz’s mission.” Agassiz Village is currently slated to host 14 Level Ground campers this summer, “and would love to support more,” Naldini wrote. “We believe that our participation in the Level Ground Initiative perfectly reflects the mission of Agassiz Village: provide a nurturing and supportive community that welcomes all and assists in developing each child’s personal vision so they can shape the direction of their journey.” And part of that experience means that campers can “meet new friends and benefit from caring counselors who, in many cases, walked in their shoes.”

Douglass wrote in an email that the experience of Level Ground campers “is very similar to all kids who come to camp.”

“They love meeting new people, doing all the fun camp activities,and returning summer after summer catching up with their newfriends,” he wrote.

When a CIT — who first attended Bishopswood as a Level Ground camper — climbed Mt. Katahdin last summer, Douglass says the individual reported that “’I didn’t think I was going to enjoy this, but seeing the view from the top was life-changing.’”

Whether it is climbing Katahdin, ascending a climbing wall, or simply having a secure place to play and have fun, Level Ground campers do have life-changing experiences. MSC looks forward making more and more of them possible. ◾



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