Story By: Beth Fitzpatrick

A group of local community leaders from Bridgeport and Trumbull recently raised more than $11,000 to support Camp HOPE America-Bridgeport, a therapeutic summer camp and mentoring program for youth ages 7 to 17 impacted by the trauma of domestic and sexual violence and child abuse.

Members of an informal philanthropic community group known as “The Crew,” get together several times a year to raise money for deserving local nonprofits. On July 11 they held a donation drive to benefit Camp HOPE at Micalizzi Italian Ice on Bridgeport’s Madison Avenue. There, they accepted cash donations and a van full of supplies donated by local residents to benefit the estimated 45 local children expected to attend Camp HOPE this summer.

The Camp HOPE program, now in its fourth summer, is operated by The Center for Family Justice in Bridgeport. CFJ provides crisis and supportive services to victims of domestic and sexual violence in the communities of Bridgeport, Easton, Fairfield, Monroe, Stratford and Trumbull.

This year “The Crew” more than doubled donations raised in previous years, bringing the total amount it has raised in the last three years for Camp HOPE to more than $20,000.

“What “The Crew” does for Camp HOPE is extraordinary, inspiring and so profoundly appreciated,” said Debra A. Greenwood, President & CEO of The Center for Family Justice. “It’s even more impressive that this amazing group of friends and colleagues were able to create so much support for our Camp HOPE program as we all cope with an unprecedented public health crisis. It’s a real testament to their enthusiasm for our mission and their dedication to this group of wonderful campers.”

“We believe in the incredible things Camp HOPE is doing for kids who have suffered traumas no kid should ever have to go through,” said Trumbull resident Fred Garrity, Jr., an organizer and spokesman for “The Crew.”‘ “More than ever, we really wanted to pitch in and help this year because the opportunity for these kids to go to this camp is life-changing and so important.”

Garrity also noted Camp HOPE is facing a new set of challenges as it program has had to adapt in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year, the Camp HOPE program will be held as a day camp in early August on the grounds of the Lakewood-Trumbull YMCA’s Camp Tepee in Monroe. In previous summers, Camp HOPE has been held for two weeks as an overnight camp at Camp Hi-Rock, a camp operated by the Central Connecticut Coast YMCA in the Massachusetts’ Berkshires.

Since Camp Hi-Rock is not open this summer, CFJ has temporarily moved its program to Camp Tepee. Adapting the program as a day camp, involves a substantial increase in daily transportation costs, Greenwood noted. Camp Hope campers attend the therapeutic camp and mentoring program free of charge and related expenses, including meals, supplies and transportation, are all subsidized by CFJ and its many donors who support the camp.

“We realized CFJ and the Camp HOPE kids needed extra help this year, so we were really grateful to see how the community responded,” said Garrity.

Members of the “The Crew” include Garrity, John Vazzano, Vinny Pezzella, Bill Schietinger, Attorney Matthew Reale, Bridgeport Police Officer Nick Ortiz, Assistant Bridgeport Fire Chief Sal Emmanuel, Barb Susi and Tammy Silva of the the Marilyn Goldstone Foundation. Jay Piccirilo, owner of Micalizzi’s Italian Ice, is also an active part of the Camp HOPE drive.

Camp HOPE America-Bridgeport is the first camp of its kind in New England and part of a national network of camps that is focused on providing children impacted by the traumas of domestic or sexual violence with a therapeutic curriculum focused on helping them overcome some of their adverse experiences while enjoying some summer fun. After impacted children and teens attend the camp, they continue to work with CFJ’s expert staff throughout the year to help them build on them continue to build on the positive experiences and coping skills they’ve learned each summer.

Click here for the original story.