SEBAGO, Maine — For 107 years, Camp O-AT-KA has introduced boys to the wonders of the natural world through its summer camp offerings on the shores of Sebago Lake.
The expansion of a plan started in 2002 will offer the camp experience to even more Maine boys whose families have not been able to afford the price of a session at Camp O-AT-KA, which typically runs more than $5,000.
Since 2002, the camp has offered what it calls “Dennen Week,” named after the camp’s founder, E.J. Dennen. For seven days at the end of the regular camping season, low-income boys from six Maine counties are charged just $25 to attend the camp. And even that modest fee is often waived.
According to a Camp O-AT-KA pamphlet, Dennen Week participants are selected based on the referrals of school guidance counselors. Candidates must be eligible for free or reduced-cost lunch, must be good school citizens and must be viewed as potential leaders.
For the 2013 season, boys taking part in the Dennen Week program hailed from Androscoggin, Cumberland, Kennebec, Lincoln, Oxford and Sagadahoc counties. The camp board of directors is now raising money in hopes of expanding that program to boys in all 16 Maine counties.
According to camp officials, 75 percent of staffers during Dennen Week are volunteering their time.
Goals for the 2014 Dennen Week, according to Camp O-AT-KA include:
— Host boys from every Maine county.
— Provide college counseling at camp for 15 “senior” campers age 15-18, with follow-up support during the next academic year.
— Provide programming that will help each camper leave Dennen Week with more self-esteem and confidence than when he arrived.
Camp O-AT-KA is a traditional summer camp with activities that include archery, canoeing, arts and crafts, lifeguard training, woodscraft, photography, sports, sailing, woodworking and others.
The camp was founded in 1906 and is accredited by the American Camp Association. Campers and counselors come from 30 states and 12 foreign countries.