Hearty Roots offers new summer camp for girls

Posted:  Monday, June 5, 2017 - 8:45am

A new summer camp experience will provide girls ages 9-15 with a special opportunity to learn about nature. Hearty Roots, a nonprofit, will host up to 60 girls at three Lincoln County locations.The camp’s purpose is to grow young girls’ self-esteem and self-awareness by exposing them to the wilderness.

Edgecomb Eddy School guidance counselor Haley Bezon created Hearty Roots. Prior to moving to Maine, she worked in Alaska and ran a 50-day wilderness expedition for at-risk teens.

Her Alaskan experience is something Bezon wanted to bring here since arriving over a decade ago. Bezon believes nature provides “restorative healing” to students coping with the challenges of being a teen. As a guidance counselor, she provides students with techniques to make better life choices. She began forming her non-profit corporation last year to help students find healthier ways to a happier lifestyle.

The program brings students into an outdoor setting for five days of activities such as camping, cooking over an open fire, practicing yoga and making arts and crafts. Four of the six camps have one overnight session. Each camp lasts five days.

Bezon called Hearty Roots a “pipe dream” of hers. She has always wanted to bring it to the Northeast.

“I’ve wanted to do something like this for years. As a school counselor, I’m focused on providing students with tools coping with life’s challenges, fostering happiness and developing resiliency. This program is all about discovering and connecting with yourself. It gets their adrenaline going by providing some cool, healthy alternatives. Research has shown kids exposed to an outlet producing a natural high are less likely to experiment with substances.”

In the future, Healthy Roots may sponsor a boys’ or co-educational program, according to Bezon.

Hearty Roots has partnered with the Deck House School in Edgecomb, Hidden Valley Nature Center in Jefferson and Great Salt Bay School in Damariscotta. The three locations have access to a wilderness setting, according to Bezon. Three weeks are dedicated to girls ages 9-12 and three other weeks are devoted to girls ages 13-15. Hearty Roots’ Board of Directors decided, at least for the first year, camps shouldn’t be co-educational. The board decided to focus on a program for girls this summer. Hearty Roots officials believe young girls will gain a great deal of self awareness through their participation.

The program creates a setting where participants leave social media alone for a few days, allowingssss them an important personal growth experience.

“Research suggests girls’ self-esteem peaks at age 9, and by 15, it significantly drops,” Bezon said. “Our work will be like holding up a mirror for girls discovering the strength and love already inside them.”

Each camp has 10 spots available. The camps in Edgecomb and Jefferson cost $225 per student and include an overnight stay. The two Damariscotta camps cost $150 and do not include an overnight camp-out. Each location has one session for girls 9-12 years old and one for girls age 13-15.  Healthy Roots is seeking grants and local donations to provide scholarships for students who can’t afford the tuition. The nonprofit is also partnering with another local organization providing transportation for campers. The Restorative Justice Program, which serves Lincoln, Waldo and Knox counties, will provide daily transportation, according to Bezon.

Several of Bezon’s Edgecomb Eddy students have signed up for at least one week. Some are excited about the new experience and others are a bit squeamish about being outdoors for five days, Bezon said. “They are all excited and willing to move outside of their comfort zone a little bit by trying something new.”

An intern will assist Bezon during each camp. One of the first lessons taught by Bezon is in her brochure. She advises campers to “stand tall and proud, sink in your roots, go out on a limb, drink lots of water, enjoy the view, and keep growing.”

For more information, contact Bezon at rootshearty@gmail.com or on Facebook.com/heartyrootsinc, or call 207-242-1434.