Special to The Herald
NEW BRITAIN-A long-standing New Britain tradition of well over 20 years may come to an end this year.
An annual summer camp for New Britain High School football players to practice away from home at Camp Niantic may be discontinued due to a lack of funding and volunteers to aid in camp activities.
The event, planned for the second week of August, is sponsored by Friends of New Britain High School Football, a nonprofit organization.
The Connecticut Army National Guard runs the event at Camp Niantic and they open their base up to players from New Britain High School so they can practice and train for the upcoming season.
Friends of NBHS Football expresses the urgency for these funds as the event comes closer.
The organizers need at least $10,000 for the camp which hosts a team of about 70 kids and roughly eight coaches over a four-day period.
A big portion of the $10,000 sum includes three meals and a night snack for two days, a lunch and dinner, along with a night snack for one day, then a breakfast and lunch on the last day.
Parent participation in the nonprofit has been on the decline, as has fundraising. In addition, there have been fewer volunteers to help raise money.
Friends of Football is a volunteer organization that has seen a depletion of membership in the past few years, currently with only about 20 members and even fewer who attend regular meetings.
One volunteer that the program has been able to count on in the past is “a catering culinary group through the city of New Britain’s schools,” says 2018 Friends of NBHS Football President, Rita Zapor.
Whitson’s Culinary Group serves at New Britain High School and has been an asset to these events for many years.
Zapor points out that with all the calories burned from the running and conditioning, you can guarantee that the players will come with an appetite.
New Britain Friends of Football calculates the cost for each player at this point could be as much as $100 if the nonprofit does not raise any more money.
The nonprofit’s hope is that, with increased fundraising efforts and raised awareness of this issue, there will be a decrease in cost so that all players will be able to afford the camp fee.
Volunteers are primarily needed to staff the kitchens at the event and the camp requires at least 10 volunteers a day.
Volunteers are permitted to stay at Camp Niantic overnight or come down one or even three days if they can.
Breakfast is served about 7 a.m., lunch at about 12:30 p.m. and dinner is around 6 p.m. The night snack is served at about 8 p.m. The meals take about an hour to prepare, an hour to serve, and an hour to clean up after.
The players are under strict supervision and have workouts such as running before breakfast and may have scrimmages each day.
The camp is open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors and parents are required to sign a release form before their child may enter the camp.
Zapor assures that Camp Niantic is not just about helping players get ready for the season, but “they also learn the importance of physical fitness, teamwork, work ethic, routine and discipline from the military, how to challenge themselves, and work together to overcome obstacles! Those are real-life lessons the kids gain through camp participation.”
Zapor says that New Britain Friends of Football has engaged in a few “shake the can” efforts at the local Stop & Shop, but still fears they “could have to cut the base, or close the camp for good.”
She does not, however, only spell gloom and doom for the camp’s future.
“I am very optimistic that the community will come together for the kids and make this year’s Camp Niantic happen for them, if we just can get the word out!” Zapor said in a written statement.
To volunteer or donate for this event, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Donations can also be mailed to c/o of Friends of NBHS Football New Britain High School 110 Mill Street, New Britain, CT 06051.
You can visit their Facebook page and any donations made to this 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization are tax deductible.
The group is actively seeking donations of any amount and camp sponsorships for this event at Camp Niantic.