In the words of Mike Foote, DREAM’s Empowerment Officer and one of its founders, the ultimate goal of Camp DREAM is to “just offer incredible adventures.” Each season presents an opportunity for Camp DREAM to showcase new adventures. For the winter there’s snowshoeing, ice exploration, cross country skiing, sleeping out in igloos, in fall there’s the colors of the leaves and learning how to track, in spring there’s maple sugaring, team building, ropes courses, and the fire pit. “But in summers, you know, Camp really comes alive,” says Foote excitedly.
Camp DREAM has always offered the best of camp life in boating trips, hiking trails, camp fires, mountain biking and skits. But Camp is growing. “It’s becoming more specialized, where campers can learn skills and experience things you can’t experience anywhere else.” For example, this summer Camp DREAM has special themes planned, like space and space science week. During this themed period, Campers will be able to learn about the constellations, build their own rockets, learn about the physics of satellites, in addition to the traditional amp DREAM activities. “Another piece of Camp DREAM is that it’s meant to engage and catalyze kids’ imaginations. It’s supposed to be an incredible wonderland of interesting experiences.” Making the wonderland possible is an array of fun spaces for campers to explore, like a tree house they can sleep in, a garden where campers can tend to vegetables or feed the chickens, the ever-evolving Lodge, which now includes an arts and craft room, inspiring murals, an incredible collection of adventure equipment and gear in the Adventure Barn and the Great Hall, which now features a theater, a performance stage with a sound system, and much more soon to come.
Originally, the purpose of Camp DREAM was to provide year-round programs and activities for Dreamers. Village Mentoring concludes at the end of the academic school year so in DREAM’s early days the mentoring and activities would stop around May or June. Many of the founders of DREAM and early members had positive memories of their own days attending camp during the summer. The utility of owning a camp property would give Dreamers a year-after-year experience that would build deeper connections with fellow mentees and mentors, and potentially inspire future meaningful choices.
Camp DREAM’s first summer was 2004. It was purchased through a partnership with the Vermont Land Trust. In exchange for conserving the property, the Vermont Land Trust worked with the Housing Conservation to raise funds for DREAM to buy about 50 acres of land on Metcalf Pond in Fletcher, VT. The acquisition created the best of both worlds; not only does DREAM help preserve the precious natural beauty of the land but it also provides a space for youth to explore and appreciate the land. Both contribute to the continued preservation of Camp DREAM.
Mike Foote reflects on his own experiences with camp when he thinks of what the tone of camp should be. “As a kid…what I remember most was the opportunity to just explore and have that space that isn’t overly structured.” So much of life is inherently structured and rigid, especially for kids who see their days governed by school and other activities, and Mike Foote sees camp as a space for spontaneity and creativity. “It really develops a sense of agency and self-reliance.. In some ways it might feel a little uncomfortable at first, but certainly exciting.” Instead of blocking out an entire day for certain activities, campers are allowed to decide what to do themselves. While programming is certainly provided and planned out, the room for freedom is always there.
Camp DREAM is still a work in progress. “We really want to put it to work.” There will be more adventures, more space for retreats, more resources for activities. “We just recently mailed out to the entire Dream community – mentors, mentees, alumni– to reserve camp.” While the push for more reservations continues, there are plans for more features to add to Camp DREAM. An AV system in the lodge, music capabilities, a dock for the lake, new campsites (including a Hobbit hole!) slides, an indoor bouldering space. Camp DREAM has grown right alongside DREAM itself, and as the years go on it can only improve.
With so many features and with the idea that mentees, all mentees from all regions of DREAM, can come to Camp to experience freedom and outdoor adventure, Camp DREAM is an invaluable resource. While it may see the most activity during the summer, it is available year-round and open to any DREAMer who’s interested.