Katie Camario

Faith and Fun in the Sun

Youth enjoy praying and playing at Mary Help of Christians Summer Camp.

Photo Caption: Children celebrate daily Mass during summer camp at Camp Mary Help of Christians.


Singing, praying, playing together and starting the day with Mass are things sixteen-year-old Vicneily, looks forwards to during summer camp.

“I always have so much fun. Hanging out with friends. Tubing is a popular activity here. There's a lot of dances, songs, and all that and you meet people that are like you,” she said.  

Vicneily has attended Camp Mary Help of Christian since she was in the 5th grade. Although she has aged out of being a camper this year, she couldn’t imagine summer without participating and has returned as a volunteer junior counselor. 

“When I'm here, I smile. I'm getting up, I'm moving around, my heart is beating. It's just a happy and positive environment that I love coming back to every year,” she said. 

Each summer, Camp Mary Help welcomes hundreds of children and teens into their sprawling 140-acre campus in East Tampa. The foundation of the camp is faith formation and evangelization, where campers start their day participating in daily Mass and join in faith activities throughout the day.

The campus opened in 1928 as an orphanage for boys by the Salesians of Don Bosco. It has grown to include the summer camp, a high school and retreat center. Their mission is to evangelize and educate young people, especially those who are poor and at risk. Their goal is to never turn a camper away, and financial assistance is offered to families who can’t afford the fees. This year, with the help of generous donations, 140 children were able to attend the camp on scholarships.  

“I'm a single mom of three, so having my daughter come here is a blessing. They work with you in any way possible because that's just being a Salesian. Don Bosco’s principals are loving kindness and he wanted to help every child,” said Linery Pichardo. 

Her daughter and hundreds of others enjoy days filled with water activities, exploring nature, playing sports, and riding horses. This year Metropolitan Ministries provided the campers with a hot lunch and several local businesses donated snacks to ensure the campers ate a nutritious meal and snack while at camp. 

“They really work hard to make the youth feel loved and cared for. They are totally on those pillars of prayer and play. They allow them to see God as fun and merciful,” said Pichardo, “They show them that He's everywhere.” 

It’s those pillars of prayer and play that draw Vicneily back year after year.

“We are all here to have fun and be faithful. We all get to spend so much time together, doing what we love, being outside, playing and running around with each other.”

Faith and Fun in the Sun 2

Photo Caption: Campers at Mary Help of Christians end the day in prayer, reflection and fellowship.

Camp Mary Help of Christians runs from June to July 29th and is for campers ages 5-15 from all denominations. To learn more about the camp and to find ways you can donate or volunteer, visit: https://www.mhctampa.org/summer-camp/