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2015 Genesis Academy Summer Campers with Counselors and Matt Scott from Tandem Sports Agency (a gold medal Olympian from the 2007 and 2011 Parapan American Games)

August 12, 2015 (New York, NY) : For most children, summer camp is fun in the sun, days filled with sports, arts and crafts, and color wars, “bug juice” and hanging out with old and new friends.  For the hundreds of New York City metropolitan area children supported by HELP USA, summer camp represents much more.  It serves as a welcome and vitally necessary respite from lives unfortunately interrupted and displaced.

This summer, homelessness is at an all-time high in NYC, with 58,761 homeless people living in shelters on any given night. These numbers include some 24,000 children. As one of the largest providers for families and single men and women, HELP USA is currently serving 1,500 children with emergency and transitional housing.

The Summer Camp program operated by HELP USA is licensed by the New York City Department of Health. Established in 1986, HELP USA, the leading homelessness prevention organization in New York, partners with a host of organizations, including the Boys & Girls Clubs, SCOP sleep away camp, and Randall’s Island Park Alliance, to ensure that the number of children participating is maximized. In addition, HELP USA works with other non-profits to enable several dozen children to participate in summer programs under the aegis of those organizations, which include Police Athletic League (PAL), Salvation Army, and the NYPD.

All of these children and their parents are served year round by HELP USA’s professionals to get back on their feet and re-integrate into society. HELP USA utilizes a comprehensive, holistic approach that includes transitional and permanent housing, rental assistance, counseling, education and mentoring, and job training with the overarching goal of giving them a hand up, rather than a hand out.

“We are dedicated to providing recreational and educational camp experiences for the hundreds of children living in our shelters. Every child deserves to enjoy summer,” said Maria Cuomo Cole, Chairman of HELP USA.

The children are encouraged to play sports, get trained in computer skills, enhance themselves academically, play board games, and participate in other recreational activities.  In addition, there are special trips for the children to places they might never have seen on their own, like Liberty Science Center, Quassy Amusement Park, Coney Island and the Botanical Gardens.  Some of the children also got to go to a sleep away camp for a two-week session and a one-week session to Camp Herrlich in Patterson, New York.

Academic enrichment is a hallmark of the camp, Mrs. Cuomo Cole added.  “We know that the summer months can fly by without a child picking up a book, practicing math skills and writing,” she said.  “We are proud that our camp mixes fun and learning.”

In fact, learning in the camp program goes far beyond the ABCs to include skills that children will need throughout their life. This year, for example, the camp theme at Genesis Academy, one of the HELP USA sites in New York, was “Standing Up Against Bullying.”  The youngsters learned how to identify bullies, properly protect themselves against bullies and help others when they see bullying occur.

“This anti-bullying curriculum had a profound impact on these children,” said Cherilyn McMillan, Director of Youth at Genesis Academy.