Hartford Camp Courant: Longest Running Free Summer Day Camp

Hartford Camp Courant (HCC) isn’t just a summer day camp, or Kars4Kids would have never given them a small grant. There has to be something different, something special about a camp to merit our consideration. In the case of Camp Courant, so many enrichment programs are offered to so many children for so many years at no cost, that it’s impossible to tell our readership about them all.

Camp Courant is fostering leadership skills, fighting summer learning loss with STEM programs, and giving kids practical experience in litigation, public speaking, and computer skills. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg of what Camp Courant has on offer. We spoke to Director of Community Outreach and Special Events Jessica Hinman to give you a small taste of what this remarkable day camp is doing for the children of Hartford, Connecticut.

Kars4Kids: You’ve been in operation for 124 years, the oldest and largest free summer day camp. How many campers have had the good fortune to go to Camp Courant, for free?

Jessica Hinman: We have over 1,000 campers every summer. That’s over 120,000 kids since Camp Courant’s inception in 1894!

Kars4Kids: Campers at Camp Courant are aged 5-12. Is there a particular reason you target this age group? Why not, for instance, teenagers?

Jessica Hinman: For the programs we offer and capacity of the organization, we can have the most impact on this age range. We also offer our Bank of America Junior Leaders Program where prior campers ages 13-15 can become counselors-in-training. In addition, we have numerous partnerships within the Greater Hartford area that serve teenagers.

Camp Courant camper enjoys STEM activity

Kars4Kids: You’re bussing kids in to camp with the help of 12 buses. How many kids do these buses hold? What’s the length of the longest commute?

Jessica Hinman: The busses hold approx. 70 campers each day and our longest commute is about 20 minutes to our campus from the South End of Hartford.

Kars4Kids: When the kids arrive, they’re served breakfast. Wouldn’t it be more usual for the kids to eat at home before getting on the bus to camp? Why is serving them breakfast at camp, important?

Jessica Hinman: 93% of our campers qualify for the Free and Federal Reduced Lunch Program (a federally assisted meal program operating in public and nonprofit private schools and residential child care institutions) which includes 2 nutritious meals a day to children during the school reason. Camp Courant also meets the qualifications, so we provide nutritious breakfast and lunch to our campers every day. Many of our campers come from low-income households that do not have access to healthy breakfast and we want to ensure they start the day well-fueled!

Camp Courant emphasizes healthy eating

Kars4Kids: Tell us about your Bank of America Junior Leaders Program.

Jessica Hinman: The Bank of America Junior Leaders Program is Camp Courant’s year-long, counselor-in-training in program. Once campers complete their last year of Camp at age 12, they may be asked to join the Junior Leaders program from ages 13-15. Campers are identified by current Junior Leaders, and are selected based on their leadership potential, ability to communicate, respect for other campers, honesty, responsibility and willingness to learn.

The program begins in September, and workshops and lessons revolve around the themes of self-esteem, diversity, work ethic, team building and communication, money management, conflict resolution, self-awareness, stress management and community service.

During the months of July and August, the Junior Leaders put the skills they have acquired into practice by serving as counselor-in-training during the Camp season.

Kars4Kids: Camp Courant works to reduce summer learning loss. What are some of the steps you’ve taken to address this problem?

Jessica Hinman: Camp Courant offers more than a dozen summer enrichment programs including STEM, Healthy Choices, Low Ropes, Arts & Crafts, Theater, Computer Lab, and Nature. Each program’s effectiveness and impact on our campers is measured and then followed during the school year. By offering these robust and engaging programs, our campers’ minds stay stimulated and active, minimizing any summer learning loss.

Kars4Kids: The Day Pitney Mock Trial program educates the kids about law and litigation. Can you tell us about this program? Are the youngest children, at age 5, part of this program? At what age do kids begin to find justice an interesting topic?

Jessica Hinman: The Day Pitney Mock Trial Program is specifically for our older campers, ages 10-12, who are learning about bodies of government and laws during the school year. The Day Pitney Mock Trial program focuses on educating campers about the law, litigation, and public speaking through activities, games and lessons geared toward improving their leadership, teamwork and advocacy skills. Activities include preparing written materials based on facts and witness testimonies, workshops on the law, the legal profession and the intricacies of trial, basic human rights, and how the law relates to their lives. Campers will have the opportunity to work directly with Day Pitney lawyers and will take a field trip to the Day Pitney office in Hartford. The program concludes with the campers putting together a ‘mock trial.’

Kars4Kids: Camp Courant has a golf program, First Tee of Connecticut Golf. We see a lot of organizations using golf to teach kids life lessons. Why golf? What sort of life lessons do children learn from playing golf?

Jessica Hinman: In 2013, Camp Courant partnered with the First Tee of Connecticut to provide golf instruction weekly to our campers. The First Tee model uses golf to teach important life skills and is based on the nine core values of honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, courtesy, judgment, confidence, responsibility and perseverance.

 Camp Courant group photo with banner

Kars4Kids: Does the camp make the effort to connect the parents of campers to the achievements of their children at Camp Courant?

Jessica Hinman: Absolutely! We offer a variety of methods for our parents to stay involved with their campers and Camp Courant throughout the year. Before the camp season begins we have a Parent’s Day, where both new and returning parents can meet the staff, learn about the programs, and ask questions about the camp season. We post great news about camp daily on our social media platforms and send out monthly e-newsletters during the off season and weekly e-newsletters during the camp season. Additionally, program directors showcase the achievements of their campers with art shows, performances, contests, awards and trophies.

Making friends at Camp Courant

Kars4Kids: What’s next for Camp Courant?

Jessica Hinman: It’s hard to believe that next year will be the 125th anniversary of Camp Courant, a truly amazing accomplishment! We are striving to achieve even more comprehensive programming and partnerships, including Manufacturing, World Affairs and Girls Empowerment programs. Additionally, we are in the process of securing funding to allow 100 additional campers per week and extend the camp season from 6 to 7 weeks.

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