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Jun 9, 2015 12:44 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Camp Soul Grow Encourages Immersion

London Rosiere, Camp SoulGrow Founder, Secured the Third House in Montauk as the Camp's Hub ALISHA STEINDECKER
Jun 9, 2015 2:59 PM

After the death of her mother in April 2014, New Orleans native London Rosiere endured a difficult time by moving to Montauk to clear her mind and to grow—spiritually, creatively and athletically. During that period, Ms. Rosiere said that she became so inspired by her love of the local community that she knew she wanted to give something back.“I wanted to use the beauty of Montauk and grow from there,” she said.

In the midst of her own personal growth process, Ms. Rosiere founded Camp SoulGrow, a not-for-profit organization that allows children to use Montauk as their playground—for free.

With the help of volunteers, local businesses and word of mouth, she created various adventure camps that immersed kids age 7 and older in the local community. They went to such places as the Montauk Juice Factory, where they learned about the vitamins in juices and created and designed their own juice labels. They learned to cook at the Crow’s Nest, went horseback riding at Deep Hollow Ranch, and took dance and yoga classes from Ms. Rosiere herself.

Sweettalk Garden was one Montauk resident’s favorite part of Camp SoulGrow. “We learned how to plant and take out the weeds, and the people told us how we can make our soil so soft and smooth,” said 8-year-old Ali Munoz.

“I feel like I want to show kids possibility and make them stronger people by giving them more things to learn,” Ms. Rosiere said.

Until this summer, the camp did not have a permanent home. Now, bearing the title of a nonprofit, Camp SoulGrow has been able to secure the historic Third House as its hub. The house was built in 1806 and was home to the cattle keepers that would drive across Napeague to let their cattle graze on the hills of Montauk.

Ms. Rosiere called it a dream come true. She is using her own inheritance to pay the rent for the Third House and for the camp activities themselves. “Now, the kids can bring life into the building, since it has been empty for so long,” she said.

The building itself will house a painting studio and dance room, and the campers will also be able to take advantage of the acres of fields that surround the Third House.

“It is historic and beautiful, but it is safe, and the kids can run around and let that energy out,” Ms. Rosiere said, adding, “Openness is a big part of what I want to show and instill in these kids—there are no boundaries, and that is because we are in Montauk.”

Both locals and seasonal residents attend Camp SoulGrow. Just like last summer, the campers will break out into different 90-minute workshops, or “adventure camps,” which will each hold a maximum of 15 children. When the season picks up, Ms. Rosiere hopes to hold five adventure camps a day to accommodate the at least 60 children that Camp SoulGrow has already served. Kids are allowed to take as many adventure camps as they want, depending on how busy it is. “I want everyone to have an equal opportunity to participate,” she said.

Ms. Rosiere remembered thinking, “Kids are so obsessed with phones, and I said, what can I do to make them entertained?” So, every day at camp there also will be elements of health, including yoga, running, hiking, hip-hop, and ballet classes.

“I’m most excited that you never know what you’re doing next. So, I have no idea of the new things that London has planned,” said Sam Stoffet, a 10-year-old camper from New Jersey. “We do new things every week. One week we went to a restaurant, and they showed us how they prepared fish, and another week we went to a house where there were Native American artifacts.”

As of right now, the camp is counting on donations, because the staff is volunteer only. Once high school is finished and kids are out for the summer, Ms. Rosiere says, she hopes to be able to secure a more “stable group of volunteers.” She is considering full-time paid counselors, but that will depend on donations. She will always have two helpers with her for each 90-minute adventure camp, and kids can sign up the Friday before.

“I made the camp free, because it felt like a gift that I was given and that my mom was given,” she said.

She said her vision of Camp SoulGrow is for it to be extremely well-rounded, and the idea is to teach kids that the fast way and easy way are not necessarily the right ways. “They come to make a birdhouse—they don’t just paint it, they learn how to make it,” she said.

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