A children’s day camp was disrupted and a community unsettled after vandalism was discovered at the Sportsmen’s Tennis and Enrichment Center in Dorchester Monday morning.
“I’m totally bummed out because I came here as a camper when I was 6 years old,” said Camille Clark, now 43 and the center’s deputy director. “It’s just always felt like such a haven. We’ve never had a break-in, we’ve never had any issues like that, so it’s troubling.”
The tennis center hosts camps for 80 to 100 kids at a time, ages 5 to 15, and offers court space for competitive youth players. The vandalism hasn’t forced the center to close, Clark said, but has limited activities.
Three of the five outdoor tennis courts were vandalized with tan and green paint, stolen from the center’s storage shed. Curse words were spray painted on an exterior door, and outdoor tables and benches where campers typically eat lunch were overturned, Clark said.
“Part of it feels really juvenile and mischievous,” Clark said. “We’re just kind of puzzled.”
One camper described the tennis center as “kind of chaos” on Monday, particularly because some of the younger campers couldn’t read the signs telling them not to go outside.
Christelle, who is 10, has been going to camp at Sportsmen’s for three years and said the vandalism was “a disappointment and rude.”
“I’m pretty sure that if somebody were to do that to their home or their house, they would be pretty mad,” she said.
Riley, who is 6, agreed. “They shouldn’t have done that,” she said.
Riley said the campers played tag Monday because there wasn’t enough space on the tennis courts for everyone to play tennis.
Riley said she wanted to know how the vandals had broken in.
“I think if I did that I would be in big trouble,” she said. “Maybe I would be punished for like two years.”
Clark theorized that the vandals must have climbed the fence that surrounds the outdoor courts to gain access. The paint used to vandalize the courts was taken from the same shed where the center keeps its power tools and other valuable equipment, but none of those items were taken, Clark said.
Officials at the center filed reports with its insurance company and the Boston Police Department, Clark said. Police could not be reached for comment Monday.
‘I think if I did that I would be in big trouble. Maybe I would be punished for like two years.’Riley, 6, a camper at the Sportsmen’s Tennis and Enrichment Center’s program
A garden at the center maintained by the Urban Farming Institute of Boston was also vandalized, according to Patricia Spence, the organization’s executive director. Plant beds were damaged and tables overturned.
The organization hosts farming novices for 20 weeks in the summer, teaching the basics of urban farming and selling the produce at local farmers markets.
“To have put [in] so much time and effort [and then] to see that someone came in and vandalized it this way is pretty horrible to see,” Spence said.
Most of the damage to the garden was easily repaired, Spence said. Not so of the damage to the tennis courts. Camp will continue while the vandalized courts are cleaned up, but campers will be restricted to the center’s seven indoor courts, according to Clark.
“We may have to get creative,” she said. “They get bummed out about not being able to go outside.”
Officials at the center are hoping to have things back in order by Friday for the center’s first summer barbecue. But repainting and fully restoring the courts could take longer.
“We’re a nonprofit,” Clark said. “We don’t have a ton of money to get this fixed.”Sara Salinas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @saracsalinas.