Six Johnston children decided that there’s more to summer recess than going to the beach – or even a friend’s pool – or just sitting around dabbling on the computer.
“I wasn’t totally shocked,” Frank Galligan, the Dean of Students at Immaculate Conception Catholic Regional School in Cranston, said this week. “We have high achievers in our school. We have kids who shoot for the stars. More importantly, the [school] administration didn’t think it was healthy for the kids to just sit around and do nothing.”
It wasn’t that long ago when Galligan and ICCRS Principal Brian Cordeiro began planning a total of eight summer camps that would take in such areas as leadership development, performing arts, science technology and athletics.
The initiative was part of Immaculate Conception’s summer EXPLORE program, a total of eight camps that would encompass many different things and thoughts, including everything from week-long basketball camps to theater camps.
“The word [EXPLORE] means several different things; exciting program, learning opportunities and rewarding experiences,” said Galligan, who is also a middle school social studies teacher. “We wanted kids to explore [the] kind of programs [that] are out there ... ones that they’d never give a second thought about.”
With wholehearted support from Cordeiro and Immaculate Conception faculty members Judy McCusker and Rebecca Maurano, Galligan pitched the kids with the idea of a community service camp.
Thus, 28 children ages 11 to 14, who are entering the sixth to the eighth grades, signed up for the unique community service camp. The camp’s mission was to provide service to the greater community, along with holding afternoon group reflections on the day’s accomplishments and oversight by faculty members.
“Incredible!” exclaimed Galligan, while noting that the camp became an instant hit and filled up almost as soon as it was advertised. “We actually had to turn some children away. Now, we have a waiting list of 15 children who want to enter the [community service] program.”
When asked what sort of community service the children performed, Galligan said, “Thirty of the greatest hours of their young lives. They made trips to nursing care facilities and soup kitchens and they even did neighborhood cleanup.”
That’s not all that impressed Galligan.
“Please remember that the children didn’t have to participate in any of our summer camps,” Galligan said. “They volunteered!”
Allesandro San Antonio, an eighth grader who was thrilled to be part of the program, said it best.
“I’ve liked spending time with my fiends while making a difference,” San Antonio told Galligan. “It’s a great feeling to help other people and have fun at the same time.”
The 28 children who participated in the community service camp filled garbage bags with leaves and other items while walking the Bike Path in Cranston.
“They pretty much beautified the bike path,” Galligan said. “Another thing the students did was make sandwiches and delivered them while spending an afternoon with the people at the Ronald McDonald House in Providence.”
Yet another blue-ribbon performance came when the children visited Elmhurst Nursing Home and coordinated a game of bingo and made crafts for residents. The weeklong community service camp concluded when the Immaculate Conception students visited Hasbro Children’s Hospital in Providence and made blankets for the children who are patients there.
“And the blankets had a special theme,” said Galligan. “It was part of Project Linus, which comes from the Peanuts cartoon character.”
While all the summer camps were termed successes, there was a certain sad side to the EXPLORE story.
“In order to provide a personal, meaningful and well-supervised experience for the kids, we had to limit it to 28 students,” Cordeiro said. “It’s unbelievable that we had to turn people away, but it just goes to show you how much these young kids want to make a difference and this is great to see. We couldn’t be prouder of them.”