Finally, a summer camp for Bridgton kids

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

For the first time in nearly a decade, Bridgton Recreation is offering a summer camp for kids, thanks to $9,700 in Community Development Block Grant funding.

The subsidy will provide scholarships, based on need, and make it possible to operate an affordable, eight-week camp for up to 55 school-age children from June 29 to Aug. 21. The cost for residents will be between $60 and $100 a week, depending on whether early dropoffs or late pickups are needed. Nonresident fees run from $75 to $125 a week.

Recreation Director Gary Colello said he recognized the need for a summer camp when he was first hired in Bridgton. Other than ball games and swim lessons, there wasn’t much for children to do in Bridgton in the summer, he said.

“I felt like the department was kind of on a vacation in the summer,” Colello said. And he knew firsthand the value of the summer camp experience, having both attended camps and served as a youth counselor.

“I grew up in summer camps, from kindergarten up,” Colello said. “It helped me grow as a person.”

So when parents first started asking him to explore a summer camp program, he readily agreed. His proposal earlier this year to the CDBG Committee was enthusiastically supported. In a funding summary, the committee wrote, “All members felt strongly about this program, because it was for children of our town that would keep them active, outside, away from video games and out of trouble.”

Colello said the camp should not negatively compete with the existing School Age Child Care (SACC) program that operates out of Stevens Brook Elementary School, since it isn’t offering field trips. Scholarships will be possible for around 20 local children.

The base of operations for the camp will be the Ice Rink behind Town Hall, and the Town Hall when other activities don’t conflict. Colello will serve as the Program Coordinator, working with a staff of five paid high school-aged counselors as well as volunteer counselors-in-training ages 13-17.

After being dropped off from 7 to 9 a.m., the children will gather for a morning meeting that will be followed by a physical exercise program called the BOKS Program that now runs at SBE during the school year.

Campers will then have a choice of four or five activities, such as crafts or reading that will take them through lunch. After that, they’ll walk to Highland Lake Beach, where they can participate in optional swim lessons or a free swim. They’ll return from the beach to another period of structured choice-based activity, then free play.

“When a child feels like they are in charge of their decisions, they become more engaged and are less likely to act out during an activity they enjoy,” Colello said.

Registrations for the Bridgton Recreation Summer Camp are available on the town’s website,, or by calling Colello at 647-8786. He said he doesn’t anticipate having any problem in filling up all the available slots.

“I’m really excited about providing this program,” he said.


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