1. What kinds of activities to campers get to participate in?
The kids get to help us care for the animals, and we teach them how to muck stalls and clean up after our cats, small animals, and barn birds. They also help us socialize with the animals, doing activities like walking dogs or grooming horses. We do talk to the kids about animal welfare and environmental issues, and we also bring animal professionals in to teach the kids about what their job entails. And of course, like all summer camps, we sing songs, play games, and do arts and crafts!
2. Can you tell me about the campers?
Our campers range from about 7 – 14 years of age, and each week we host a different age group. Our Summer Camp is very popular. We actually do not do any advertising for it, and we get more campers that would like to attend than we have spots for each year. For this reason, we use a lottery system to pick which kids will get to go to camp. Most of the kids here do love animals!
3. Is there a favorite activity among the campers?
Anything that involves spending time with the animals the campers love! Honestly, I think that their favorite activity varies from camper to camper, and really depends on what their personal favorite type of animal is.
4. How did the MSPCA’s summer camp get started?
Originally, the camp was held at Macomber Farm, which was part of the MSPCA in the early 1980’s and was used primarily as an educational facility. After Macomber Farm closed, the camp was moved to Nevins Farm in 1987, where it has been held ever since. We still sing most of the original songs from Macomber and tie-dye shirts (a Summer Camp tradition!). The camp has evolved a lot over the years, and I like to think it gets better each summer!
5. There must be a lot of preparation before camp opens. How does the MSPCA get ready for the campers’ arrival?
We are licensed by the state of Massachusetts, so there is a checklist of things that we need to get ready in order to pass our inspection. All of the camp staff gets CPR certified and CORI/SORI checked; and we need to check our facilities and make sure that everything is in safe working order, restock all of our supplies, go over lesson plans, train the junior counselors, as well as collect paperwork from each camper…it’s a lot of hard work, but we get it done!
6. As Director of the camp, do you have the chance to get involved with the day-to-day camp experience?
Absolutely! I think it’s very important for the kids to know not just their camp counselors, but the rest of the shelter staff as well. A lot of the kids want to be just like us when they grow up, and I find they really enjoy meeting and working with the MSPCA staff. On a personal level, I really enjoy answering questions about the animals, and bringing animals for the kids to meet. I still come in and sing songs with the kids, and join them at recess and lunch. I also love popping in for our guest speakers as well!
7. With so much going on in daily sheltering operations, why does the MSPCA think it is important to run a summer camp for kids?
It’s an excellent and fun way for us to teach kids about animals – issues that animals face, what we do here at the shelter, and what they can do in their lives and in their communities to help animals.
8. It must be fun but exhausting work at summer camp. What do you take away from overseeing the camp?
I take a great deal of pride in our Summer Camp – when I get feedback from the campers or their parents about how much they enjoyed being here, or when I see kids come back each summer who really love it, I find that very rewarding. I also love when our former campers end up becoming junior counselors, and hopefully head counselors...it makes it feel like we’re kind of a little family. The MSPCA Summer Camp was a place where I learned things about animals that I didn’t know when I was a junior counselor, and that made a difference in my life as far as thinking critically about the choices that I make as a consumer, and obviously it influenced my career path…I’d like to think that it continues to have the same positive effect on kids today.
9. Being a nonprofit must limit some of the things you might like to do with the camp. If you had a magic wand that would enable you to do one special thing every year, what might that be?
I would love to bring back field trips! When the summer camp ran for two weeks instead of one, we always went on animal- or environmental-related field trips. I really enjoyed going to other organizations and learning about what they do. If I could make the camp day longer so we could fit in a field trip and still get to do all the things that we do at our shelter, I would do that in a heartbeat!
10. When it’s not summer, what is your role at the MSPCA?
During the rest of the year, I work as an Animal Care and Adoption Counselor in our small animal shelter. So, it’s my job to take care of all the animals that are here, help take new animals into the shelter, and (my favorite part!) send animals to their new homes. I also work as a Humane Educator and assist with some after school programs that we run at the shelter.
11. Did you always want to work in animal welfare?
I grew up in Methuen and my family spent a lot of time here when I was a kid; we adopted all of our pets from the MSPCA at Nevins Farm. The MSPCA came to my school when I was younger and talked to us about why animals ended up at the shelter, which was the first time I was made aware of animal welfare issues. I was also a junior counselor for the Summer Camp when I was in high school and loved it. In college I was a camp counselor for a summer camp for extreme sports, too! All of these experiences combined to make me a good fit for working with animals and kids at our shelter. I hope to make the same connection with other kids that the MSPCA made with me when I was younger…
12. We heard that you share your home with a MSPCA Animal Hero of the Year. Has the award affected Tucker’s ego?
Well, Tucker is a very humble dog, and he likes to make sure that people know that he was part of a team of animal educators who won the award that year. Tasha and Comet, who he shared the award with, had been in the game for about ten years before he came along. Besides being the summer camp mascot since 2008, Tucker has participated in everything from nursing home and school visits, being an animal guest at Little Bookworms, and giving shelter tours. He really loves meeting people of all ages and spreading the word about the MSPCA. If Tucker can convince one family to come to the shelter and adopt an animal, then he feels like he’s doing his job. It’s also been really nice to have an animal as the “face” of our Summer Camp – repeat campers enjoy seeing him each summer!