Out on the far east side of Montauk, children are learning and growing every day at Camp SoulGrow, a creative workshop camp taking place at the historic Third House. A non-profit organization, Camp SoulGrow seeks to motivate children to follow their dreams, according to Founder London Rosiere.
The fun, educational, and inspirational programs at Camp SoulGrow utilize community artists and local enterprises as the children’s mentors. Run entirely by volunteers, the success of Camp SoulGrow is largely due to the efforts of Rosiere, self-titled as the camp’s “Head Kid.”
Rosiere was born and raised in New Orleans but lost her home during Hurricane Katrina. “I figured I may as well rebuild myself in a new place,” Rosiere says. The young woman—still in her early 20s—had been visiting New York for just two days when the storm hit, and she decided to stay in the city.
After working in Manhattan’s fashion industry for nine years, Rosiere retreated to Montauk following the passing of her mother. “I came out here to take some time,” she says. “Every day, I was pushing myself to feel better, make [myself] healthier and get through that rough time. Montauk had been such a special place to me for finding myself.
Montauk was also the perfect place for Rosiere to devote her time to a lifelong passion—helping children. She started by holding a small workshop for the local children via a tour through the Montauk Juice Factory. “It was just going to be one day, free for the kids,” she says. But everything changed once she was inspired by the magic of the day and hearts of the children. “I got so into it,” Rosiere says. “I called up all my connections. We practiced horseback riding, archeology, yoga…all cool experiences that kids don’t normally get to do.”
The relationship Rosiere began to form between the children and the community was irreplaceable. “[I thought to myself], ‘there’s no way I can lose this.’ So I decided to stay in Montauk, against what everyone had told me.” Rosiere’s concerned friends cautioned her about Montauk’s slow and cold winter season, but she was determined to stay. “If that’s how you feel, how do you think the kids feel,” she says. “And that’s why I needed to stay.”
Rosiere was able to continue offering her workshops through the now-year-round program and official nonprofit she named Camp SoulGrow. “This is not a nine-to-five camp to drop the kids off,” she explains. Camps are 90 minutes long and two or more are offered daily. “At Camp SoulGrow, kids are given the responsibility to choose the camps that they want to do.”
One of the defining aspects of Camp SoulGrow is its free admission. “The reason it’s free is so kids can choose to take more and more workshops and keep learning more. If there’s a woodshop class, and they’ve never done it before, they can do it. I want kids to be able to say yes to everything and keep learning. A price limits their options.”
Rosiere appreciates the friendships that form from Camp SoulGrow’s free admission. “Bridging demographics is important at a young age—you can’t get around it as an adult, so it’s been beautiful to see the kids who were here last summer and locals in the winter now merging and becoming friends.”
Parents continue to thank Rosiere for Camp SoulGrow’s positive influence on their children, from growing their social skills to offering them the chance to take part in activities they’d otherwise not have the chance to do. Rosiere reflects, “Hopefully this is just the beginning of what I see as the platform for people in the community to share their gifts, talents and passions with the kids in the community.”