One summer morning in the Bellevue Square housing complex in Hartford’s north end, seven year-old Charles Teale was doing what he would typically do: play on the sidewalks in front of his family’s apartment. This all changed when one of the Jones twins asked Charles if he wanted to go with her to Camp Courant. When Charles replied he’d never heard of Camp Courant, the Jones girl ran up four flights of stairs to ask Charles’ mother if he could take the bus in front of the Keney Clock Tower and head out to Farmington to join other Hartford children at the camp. That summer Charles spent time with many of his schoolmates playing football, basketball, tetherball, volleyball, swimming in the pool, and something truly remarkable, swinging on one of several Maypoles. Charles was also excited to find out he would receive a free lunch each day (something that didn’t always happen when he was home), and during special days, the campers even received free ice cream sponsored by local business and civic leaders.
The fact that Charles was able to spend his summer days socializing and playing with his friends, eating good food in a setting that felt thousands of miles away from his housing project – without paying a dime – had a lasting impact on his life. As an adult, Charles spent 28 years as a member of the Hartford Fire Department, and rising through the ranks, he served his last 10 years in the department as chief. Since his retirement in 2010, Teale has continued to make contributions to the Hartford community by serving as a volunteer math teacher at Youth Challenge and working as a tutor at the Hartford Adult Education Center. Teale has written several books including a recent biography on Hartford legend, Walter “Doc” Hurley, as well as Chief Teale's The Tools of Learning: From GED to MASTERS Degree and Beyond, which tells Teale’s life story and describes the unique learning program that he developed called the "Tools of Learning.” Teale donates portions of the proceeds from all of his books to Camp Courant and has made additional contributions to the camp through the years.
“From my time at Camp Courant and other experiences, I came to realize that many people had stepped up for my benefit,” Teale said. “I recognized that I had an obligation to do that for others, and I am so pleased and proud that so many children continue to have the opportunity to go to Camp Courant and enjoy experiences similar to my own and benefit from additional educational and enrichment programs.”
Hundreds of future campers at Camp Courant will enjoy significantly improved facilities at the Camp’s Farmington location thanks to a $130,000 grant from the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving. Summer programs such as those offered at Camp Courant are a key component to one of the Hartford Foundation’s three strategic priorities -- ensuring all of our region’s children are ready to learn when enter kindergarten and prepared to succeed when they graduate from high school. These types of programs help to stem summer learning loss, with many students losing an average of one month of learning in math and reading over summer vacation.
”We are truly honored to have received such a generous grant from the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving,” said McKinley Albert, Camp Courant’s executive director. “While Camp Courant has been a pillar of the Hartford community for 122 years, time has taken a toll on our campus. A year ago, we asked ourselves a tough question: When 600 of Hartford’s children descend upon campus, how we can ensure that our campers are getting the best experience possible? Thanks to the support of organizations like the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, we have answers to that question.”
The Foundation grant will contribute to a variety of capital projects including:
The Early Learning Center renovation and bathroom installation are just two components of a large-scale, $1.7 million facilities upgrade, and will dramatically expand Camp’s ability to offer a variety of active learning opportunities. The Camp views these programs as imperative to reaching its full potential as a youth development organization. Providing active learning opportunities enables campers to develop a sense of empowerment and competence, provides opportunities to build skills, exercise leadership and fully participate and interact with what they are learning.
“In recent years, Camp Courant increasingly has focused on offering quality summer learning programs,” said Hartford Foundation senior program officer Judy McBride. “The main building upgrades expand the camp’s ability to provide an educational and enjoyable experience for campers of all ages and abilities. The project expands the uses of the camp’s limited indoor space. The conversion of the Early Learning Center into a multipurpose classroom requires accommodating learning activities for young as well as older campers. This project directly supports the Foundation’s interest in addressing summer learning loss and equity, and we are proud to support Camp Courant’s important work.”