IN THE NEWS: UrbanPromise supporters canoe 50 miles down the Delaware River

The Times of Trenton
Written by: Jenna Pizzi/The Times of Trenton 

TRENTON — With the morning sun glimmering on the rippled Delaware River, paddlers loaded into long, slim outrigger canoes set off on a two day, 50-mile journey.

The paddlers, in distinctive blue and yellow canoes, are not justmaking the trip for the physical fitness and scenic views. They are raising awareness and money for Urban Promise summer camp programs in Trenton, Camden and Wilmington, Del.

Urban Promise is a nonprofit that started in Camden 25 years ago, providing after school and summer programs for inner-city kids. Children receive help with their studies and managing their lives. The program also emphasizes Christian spiritual development and leadership.

Carl Clark was a participant in the Camden program as he was growing up and, as an adult, started the Trenton branch in 2010. Yesterday, at 7 a.m., he helped to prepare the canoes for the trek south from the Duck Island starting point. Twenty-five children and adults are on this trip.

“I really didn’t have any role models who were adults that I could really look up to,” Clark, 32, said, remembering how he was at age 6 when he met Urban Promise founder Bruce Main. The program helped him to acquire character and wisdom, he said. “That’s necessary for the development of a young person,” Clark said.

He decided to bring the program to Trenton, leaving behind a career as a banker, because he wanted to provide the same hope to children and teens that he had when he was growing up. Clark first came to Trenton when he attended The College of New Jersey on a full scholarship in nearby Ewing.
“We do just about everything under the sun for development of young kids and teenagers,” he said.

Clark said the summer camp programs are led by teenagers in the community who are called “street leaders.” The high-school aged street leaders go through a class where they learn leadership and life skills such as interviewing and resume building, then they have to interview for the job as counselor for the summer camp. The teens are then paid by Urban Promise to be counselors for the younger children, usually ages 6 to 12, who are enrolled in the free camp.

“Some of the children they don’t feel so much hope,” said Marselly Almanzar, an intern with Urban Promise Trenton. “I’ve seen how this can help them achieve so much more.”

Clark said the camp will run at two churches in Trenton this year from July 9 to Aug. 10. The program is sustained mostly by donations, said Phyllis Jones, the board president for Urban Promise Trenton.

Main came up with the idea for the “Paddle for Promise” fundraiser while brainstorming ways for the three regional Urban Promise groups to collaborate.

“We have this whole emphasis on getting kids out doors,” Main said. “Let’s do something on the river.”

He said he called up some friends from the Philadelphia Dragon Boat Association and the Philadelphia Police Dragon Boat Team who provided the canoes and some manpower to guide the novice Urban Promise employees along the way.

The group arrived in Camden yesterday afternoon and will row from Camden to Wilmington today. Volunteers from all three locations are using the trip to raise funds for the summer camps. The group from Trenton is looking to raise $2,500.

“We can expand,” he said. “The only thing that can hold us back is finances.”

Clark said his goal is to have an Urban Promise site in each of the city’s four wards and another central site so that he can reach about 500 students in Trenton.