By Emily Drooby
Naima used to describe herself as shy, but after six years at Camp Felix, she can now sing in front of a huge crowd of people during a talent show.
“When I first came I was a little scared. I’m a normally shy person. I’m not as shy as I was before, I’m a lot more open.”
Camp Felix is a month-long overnight summer camp in Putnam Valley. It was co-founded 14 years ago by the New York Foundling, one of the state’s oldest and largest child welfare human service agencies. It was created by the Sisters of Charity.
All of the campers are from the child welfare system, which provides services to keep kids safe.
“You can look past all of the bad things, you can look past all of that and still have fun, having fun is the most important thing about camp. Just have fun and let loose,” Naima said.
In 2018, there were over 9,000 kids in the New York City child welfare system. About 1,000 of kids from all over New York, including the Diocese of Brooklyn, have enjoyed the camp for free.
For Bill Baccaglini, president and CEO of the New York Foundling, it’s a place where kids can just be kids.
“Just looking at the smile on these kids’ faces, and the way they kid around with each other, they’re kids. Even though these kids have been through a lot of different things, at the end of the day, they’re kids and it’s great,” he said.
From the rock-climbing wall to the pool, the kids have so much at Camp Felix that they keep coming back year after year.
Naima described it as, “just happiness, always being brought up, never being put down.”
Now, just like almost 40 other former campers, she’s training to become a counselor. She wants to help other kids have the same positive experiences she got to have.
“I felt like it was going to be different than any other place I’ve been to, it was going to be fun. I saw the pool, I really wanted to go there, we were able to. I was really happy. I just feel like this was home,” said Sarah, a first-time camper who already wants to come back next year.