PARIS – The Oxford Hills Rotary Club welcomed Director Pat Carson and Counselor Miranda Olmstead from Camp Susan Curtis, East Stoneham, on Jan. 12.

The camp provides a low- or no-cost camping experiences for underprivileged Maine youths (55 of whom last year were from the Oxford Hills).

Founded in 1971, the mission of Camp Susan Curtis has been to “build the individual character, self-confidence and self-esteem of economically disadvantaged Maine children by providing them tuition-free, high quality camping, educational and social experiences,” Carson said.

The Susan L. Curtis Foundation operates the camp, which was established by former Gov. Kenneth M. Curtis and his wife, Pauline Curtis, with the aid of the Cumberland County Sheriff and other state officials, partly as a memorial to the Curtis’s daughter, Susan, who had succumbed to cystic fibrosis, and partly to provide a facility for Maine’s less fortunate children.

More than 550 children from around the state can be campers during the summer, up from an original capacity of 380, due to the addition of two new cabins and other facility improvements that were the results of a memorial fund drive held when the Curtis’ other daughter also succumbed to CF.

The camp never closes – there is always something going on, either at the camp or in association with it. In addition to its regular June-to-October camping schedule, there are leadership retreats in April, various outdoor activities each fall and during winter school breaks.

The guidelines for referring children are left up to the individual schools, with the only condition being that a candidate must be qualified for the USDA free lunch program.

At the present time, the camp limits to 750 the number of applications it disseminates to the elementary schools, and from those, accepts about 560. The regular season camping sessions are two weeks, with the children in each session being geographically and demographically grouped so they will already know each other.

The camp has three full-time employees and 48 volunteer summer staff. Through the years, many campers have returned as counselors, have gone on to college and become teachers, who then sent students to the camp.

Olmstead, 17 and a senior at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School, has been associated with the camp since she was 7. She and her fellow senior counselors are close friends, as they have grown together in the program, and they are role models for the younger campers.

An average day begins with everyone gathering to decide on some positive word or goal for the day, followed by breakfast, cabin clean-up, a first activity, a free choice of a second activity, lunch, another activity, then dinner.

Olmstead also has taken on the job of running the camp’s theater group – writing the scripts and designing the sets for plays in which the campers and staff play the roles.

The Oxford Hills Rotary Club looks forward to continuing its long-standing support of the camp, said Club President Patty Rice.

The club meets at 7:30 a.m. Wednesdays at the First Congregational Church in South Paris. If interested in attending a meeting, contact Rice at 743-7777 or check out www.oxfordhillsrotary.org.


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