HARRIMAN STATE PARK, NY — Leandra Feliz was smiling happily, but was a little nervous, as she used a pair of oversized scissors to cut a red ribbon Wednesday, officially introducing Camp Junior to the world.
The sleep-away facility for Bronx kids ages 9 to 13 was named for her slain son, who was only 15 when gang members killed him in June 2018.
“I feel like my son’s going to be living forever,” Leandra Feliz told PIX11 News. “My son’s name is going to be living for generations. That’s what I want. Everyone remember Junior.”
Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul joined Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. at the ribbon cutting. Diaz had the idea to invest at least a$1 million into the new camp, located on the grounds of Harriman State Park, about 40 miles north of the Bronx.
Diaz spoke to the dozens of young people assembled for the camp’s second session.
“Justice for Junior has to be what you make of yourself,” Diaz said. “Justice for Junior is how you treat each other....the experience you gain up here and how you take that back home with you.”
Hochul spoke of the $18 million Governor Andrew Cuomo has earmarked for after school programs and anti-gang initiatives in the wake of Junior’s shocking murder, which was captured on multiple surveillance cameras.
“We have to give them alternatives,” Hochul said about the young people.
Ramada. an 11-year-old camper, arrived at the camp Tuesday.
“I learned how Camp Junior keeps us away from danger and stuff,” she told PIX11.
She also learned Lake Tiorati was “cold but fun at the same time.”
Angel, 9, arrived on Tuesday, too, from the Bronx and said “so far, so good.”
Angel was excited about learning archery Wednesday morning.
“I got a bullseye!” he told PIX11 excitedly.
Fatima Shama, executive director of the Fresh Air Fund, which runs Camp Junior, grew up in the Bronx and witnessed violence firsthand.
“Tragedy happens,” Shama said. “Gang violence happens and they have to be part of the change.”