The 25th anniversary celebration for Trinity College’s Dream Camp included an extra dose of excitement as Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont joined campers and families to share news of a $1 million grant from the State of Connecticut to support Dream Camp’s future.

Dream Camp
Trinity’s mascot, the Bantam, joined campers to celebrate Dream Camp’s 25th anniversary. Photo by Hellen Hom-Diamond.

One of Trinity’s longest running community programs serving Hartford children, Dream Camp marked 25 years in classic summer style on Wednesday, July 20, beginning with a barbecue picnic on the Jacobs Life Sciences Center Quad attended by about 300 members of Dream Camp families. Campers tested their agility and bouncing prowess on inflatable obstacle courses, while others demonstrated their own best line dance moves with Trinity’s mascot, the Bantam.

The festivities shifted indoors to Mather Hall with a spirited program in the Washington Room. Dream Camp Site Director Dan Swartz kicked off the program by celebrating all staff members, and inviting several of the older campers to stand while he announced their names and their recent graduations from high school and plans to attend college. Each of the newly minted graduates were presented with shirts emblazoned with the names of colleges they will attend while the audience applauded and cheered.

Speakers included Michael Rouse, co-founder and executive director of ESF Camps, Inc.—ESF stands for education, sports, and fun—and Paul Raether, ’68, H’14, P’93, ’96, ’01, Dream Camp founder and long-time supporter. It was in the mid-1990s that Raether first envisioned Trinity starting a tuition-free, academic summer program for underserved children in the Hartford area and he turned to his longtime friend Rouse to turn that vision into a reality. The two leaders who collaborated on founding Dream Camp said that there was much to celebrate about the camp, which offers both a summer camp and year-round academic mentoring program for participating elementary school through high school students. During summer 2022, approximately 170 Hartford children are participating in the program.

Dream Camp
Site Director Dan Swartz, Paul Raether, and Adah Gillon, assistant site director. Photo by Alexa Maloney, ESF Camps.

“We started Dream Camp because of our strong belief of the relationship between education and opportunity,” said Raether. “If you give children access to an outstanding education, it opens up new vistas for them. It is our sincere hope that the Dream Campers continue to take advantage of the opportunities that Dream Camp at Trinity College offers them.”

Trinity President Joanne Berger-Sweeney also addressed attendees. “At the very core of this camp is a desire to benefit the children of Hartford because we know that every investment that you make in a child is an investment into making a community better,” said Berger-Sweeney, who welcomed to the microphone Paul Mounds Jr. ’07, who serves as chief of staff to Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont.

Mounds, who worked as a Dream Camp staff member while attending Trinity, thanked Dream Camp supporters and funders, several of whom were in attendance. “You have no idea of how much you are changing families, changing children, and changing communities,” said Mounds. “It has only been 25 years, and we have 25 more years to go at least. The growth of this program will only change this city, this region, and this state for the better.”

Campers presented a Dream Camp “promise contract” to Governor Lamont. The children unfurled the banner-sized contract that they had created and decorated, which attested to the campers’ promise to respect each other and their community and to give back to their community. Mounds further energized the crowd with an announcement that Dream Camp will receive $1 million from the State of Connecticut to support its programs.

Dream Camp
L-R: State Senator Jon Fonfara, Paul Mounds Jr. ’07, camper Jordyn Hutchison, Paul Raether ’68, H’14, P’93, ’96, ’01, Trinity President Joanne Berger-Sweeney, Governor Ned Lamont, camper Madyson Hutchison, and ESF’s Michael Rouse. Photo by Stephanie Hofstetter, ESF Camps.

Lamont said, “I love what you’re doing here… I love an institution like Trinity that reaches out into the community and makes sure you’re part of something bigger than yourself.”

Following the event, Berger-Sweeney reflected on Dream Camp’s impact. “For 25 years, through amazing partnerships and a collaboration with ESF, Dream Camp has provided important opportunities for thousands of school-aged children, empowering them to find new experiences through education, fun, and enrichment activities. We are honored to support Hartford children and their families through Dream Camp’s important mission.”

Rouse added, “ESF Dream Camp Trinity has been a 25-year partnership between our team, the students, and their families that I’m most proud of. Through that partnership that is rooted in Paul Raether’s vision, along with our relationship with Trinity College, we have been able to provide students with the platform to turn their dreams into reality. Paul Mounds exemplifies successfully converting that dream while paying it forward. This extraordinary and generous grant from the Governor’s Office secures the future of this program for generations to come. I couldn’t be more grateful.”

Current Trinity student Alysia Rivera ’24, a Dream Camp staffer this summer, is among many Trinity College students who have participated throughout the years in helping tutor and mentor campers in the summer and/or during the school year through Dream Camp’s after-school program. Rivera said she appreciates the way that Dream Camp staff are encouraged to use positive reinforcement—including bestowing ‘Super Hero’ cards on campers or providing treats such as popsicles—to recognize campers’ good behavior and participation. Rivera, who added that her experience working at Dream Camp relates to her psychology studies and has influenced her to think about graduate school or medical school options post-Trinity, said, “I feel lucky to impact our next generation.”

Learn more about Dream Camp here.
See a photo gallery below.