“While some other camp communities may offer spaces in which children can learn that nature is magical and community is compassion, I’ve never seen or heard of one that does so with this strong of a commitment to diversity, inclusion, and access.”
— Christy Croft
(told by founder Louise Omoto Kessel)
The first year we had camp at Clapping Hands, it was really just a lark. I loved summer camp, Clapping Hands was a wonderful spot to have camp, Holmes was open to it, and so we invited all our friends with kids to send them to us for a week of puppet camp with Jan Burger. We had a blast.
It was the second or third year that I got a phone call from a social worker at a program called Hope Meadow. They provided residential treatment for pregnant women in recovery. Ordinarily they worked with the women, and maybe the women and their newborn babies, but that summer they had an expecting mom who also had daughters ages 8 and 9. They were looking for something for these girls to do. Could they come to camp?
I said yes.
Working with this family was a wonderful experience—an experience that continues into the now. Those girls became counselors, their mom still stays in touch, the older daughter taught a crochet workshop at our teen camp last summer. Even the social worker who made that call is now a camp parent, sending her own young children to camp.
That experience flipped a switch in my head—maybe camp could be more than just a joyous romp. Maybe camp could serve children with specific needs and make a difference in their growth and healing.
From that beginning we have partnered with local agencies who have sent campers to us. We’ve worked with :
- Chatham Together – provides services to at-risk youth
- Family Violence and Rape Crisis
- Hope Meadow – provides services to pregnant women in addiction recovery
- Department of Social Services Foster Care program
- Chatham Partnership for Children
- Hispanic Liaison
- Carolina Outreach – provides mental health services to low income families
- Campers are the most precious resource we have at camp. Sending your kids to camp IS a contribution.
- We’ve been doing this for a long time and have come to understand that bringing kids to camp on scholarship is a GREAT INVESTMENT. When I look around at our staff, I see dozens of talented, intelligent, caring, generous, hardworking people…and it’s not unusual for half or even most of them to be people who once came to camp on scholarship.
- What’s more…campers and counselors take those same attributes out into the big world with them. I’m not taking credit for their amazingness, but it takes a village and I’m really pleased that Clapping Hands has been part of that village for so many young people.
- I love our scholarship program because we ALWAYS want your kids more than we want your money. We want your kids HERE. We want to work with them and with you. Another kid is not the same as your kid. Every camper brings something unique to the mix. Our scholarship program is extended to everyone. Your kids coming on scholarship won’t be taking from anyone else. Our staff is here because we LOVE it; working with your children is our pleasure, never a burden.
- Send your kid if they want to come and you want them to come! The purpose of our scholarship program is to REMOVE OBSTACLES to attending. Believe it. You don’t need to be destitute to need a scholarship. If money is an obstacle to your children coming to camp, then consider our scholarship program available to you.
- Understand that camp is a commitment. During a week of camp we are building a community and building skills, starting projects that need follow through. Each day builds on the day before. It’s best for campers to sign up for the week and to come all day every day unless you have cleared a different schedule with Louise in advance. (For Spring Break Camp and Art Party Camp we take sign-ups by the day, but for most of our camps you commit for the week.)
- Thoughtfully consider what you can contribute financially and be as clear-sighted and realistic as you can be.
- Know that even small contributions really matter. $5 pays for a week’s worth of snacks. Some people pay whatever they have available—$5, $30, $20. Some people pay 1/2. Some people just need $50 off. Some people can pay the whole camp fee or close to it, if they can pay in installments.
- Some people pay in goods or make a point of volunteering or helping with our fundraising projects. I’ve received venison and pork and goat cheese. Farmers have brought enough blueberries or cherry tomatoes that we could serve them for snack; camp parents have prepared a meal for our staff dinners each Sunday before camp. Campers who have been scholarship recipients have played ukulele at our fundraising parties, sent fundraising letters to friends and families, and blasted out our crowdfunding campaign on their Facebook pages. We also understand that sometimes the same circumstances that cause money to be limited also limit your time. We do not expect anyone to volunteer because they have received a scholarship.
- If money is really tight, please low ball what you think you can pay. I would much rather expect $0 and get something that be expecting something and get zero.
- Communicate if you have changes to what you’ve planned to do in terms of attendance or money.
- Ask if you need help with lunches or transportation or the filling-out of forms or have any questions at all. We understand that money isn’t the only thing that can present an obstacle to attending camp. We do not have an official lunch program or camp transportation. But our camp community has a lot of generous people in it and I’ve known parents to fold an extra child into a carpool or pack lunch for another kid. We can send paper copies of forms, we have forms in Spanish, or we can help you fill them out. If you don’t have easy computer access, we can take your registration over the phone. We have Spanish-speaking staff and volunteers as needed.
- If it is your child’s first time coming to camp at Clapping Hands, I find that signing up for TWO camps the same summer makes a really big difference. Coming back for that second week being familiar with the place and the routine and knowing some of the people can “seal” a good experience.
- If your child is nervous about coming to a place where they don’t know anyone, consider signing them up with a friend. Check to see if there is space, but that can be a nice way to get started in a new place.
- We LOVE having campers involved year after year. Please sign up again next summer! And the next! And the next!
- Signing up for camp and then not attending. This is the one thing that hurts camp both in terms of extra work and financially. Our camps normally run full. When someone is signed up and doesn’t show up on Monday, it is often really difficult for me to then fill the spot. I also don’t feel comfortable using money that donors gave for someone to come to camp for someone who DOESN’T come to camp. So we take a financial LOSS when this happens. It’s also disappointing when campers don’t show up. There is a surprising amount of attention to each child before they even get to camp; we take a lot of time to create buddy groups, put their names on cubbies, brief counselors on what we know about each camper, etc. We look forward to working with them.
- Signing your child up for camp when they actively don’t want to come. I understand giving a child a little push if they are uncertain about trying something new, and you are pretty sure they will love it once they get there. But camp is supposed to be FUN and it’s best when people are there because they want to be.
- campers being served by a local social services agency because their family is actively in crisis
- families dealing with or recovering from long-term unemployment
- single parents
- families with a parent who has a life-threatening illness; families where one parent has died
- families with 3 or more children…it adds up!
- families living on one income because they choose to have a stay-at-home parent
- families who are self employed and are having a bad year
- parents on disability
- families who don’t make enough money to afford our camp fee
We have additionally been open to any camp family who finds $ to be an obstacle to attending.
I wonder now if camp would have even continued to present-day without that phone call and the scholarship program that grew out of it. It elevated our whole endeavor and gave it greater meaning. So, it’s not surprising to me that our scholarship program is SO central in everything we do.
donate to our scholarship program
Today, in every camp and program we do, 1/3 to 1/2 of our campers come on scholarship. For many years we didn’t raise money for this at all, but the staff also didn’t get paid for much of their work. In recent years we have developed a goal of covering all our scholarships, as it has become clear to us that in order for camp to be sustainable and continue into the future, we need to pay our staff for all the work that goes into making camp run. We also need to put items like maintaining our driveway and our buildings into our budget. In 2016 we became a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a big arts non-profit, which enables us to accept tax-deductible contributions.
Please go to the DONATE page of this website for more information.
Or donate here:
Clapping Hands is a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization. Contributions for the charitable purposes of Clapping Hands must be made payable to Fractured Atlas only and are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.
if you need financial assistance
We provide scholarship assistance to anyone who needs it with a No One Turned Away policy. We accept campers into our program regardless of their ability to pay. If we have space in the camp, you can come and pay what you CAN, even if that’s $0. You don’t need to apply. There is a spot on our registration forms to indicate that you need a scholarship and you can write in how much you can pay there. You can also detail a payment plan there if you are able to pay in installments.
You can register your child/ren for up to TWO summer camps at any level of financial assistance needed including 100% scholarship. If your camper/s are interested in coming to more than 2 camps, please let us know which additional camps they are interested in and we will keep them on a waiting list. We can sometimes do more than 2 camps if there is space, but we want to make sure everyone who wants to come has access first.
worried about accepting a scholarship?
(a message from founder and director Louise Omoto Kessel)
Many people are worried about receiving financial assistance or “taking those funds” from other kids who might be more needy or are worried that their family will be a burden. This is how we look at it:
helpful things to DO and to AVOID if you are receiving a scholarship
Here are a few examples of circumstances where people have needed financial assistance:
I just want to say it one more time: If money is an obstacle, that’s what our scholarship program is for.
“Camp has opened so many doors for me, many that lead to new friendships, knowledge, music, love, and support. I’d forgotten how important it was to take care of myself and all the fun and relaxing ways I could do that.”
– Lenore Ramos, camper and counselor