As someone who has been involved with camp for the past 52 years, and as the parent of a child who has spent many enjoyable hours involved in the programs and activities at the John J. Nerden RTC Camp, it is difficult for us to imagine a time when camp would no longer be available to us. As President and Secretary of the camp’s Board of Directors, we face the reality that these difficult economic times make that possibility evermore threatening. While Board members and Directors work diligently to keep costs down, and to find the necessary funding to support these costs, it is becoming increasingly difficult to reconcile the two. In our constant effort to ensure the future of our camp for your child and others, we find we must seek your assistance.
Let us give you a brief history of how camp started and how camp is funded so that there is no cost to the families of our campers.
How did we begin?
Back in 1965, there were no recreational programs available to those children and adults with intellectual disabilities. The Regional Training Center and Sheltered Workshop located in Meriden (now known as Kuhn Employment Services) decided to start a camp to serve those in Meriden, Wallingford, Southington, Cheshire, and all of Middlesex County. The Board of Directors of the Regional Training Center applied for and received a $3,000 grant from the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation which was awarding seed money to groups and communities starting programs. The Board of Directors then approached Louis and Herman Zemel who at the time owned Powder Hill Ski Area in Middlefield. The Zemel brothers very generously donated 15 acres of land to be used as a recreational facility for those with special needs. Parents from the local ARCs along with members from local service clubs, and businesses donated their time and hard work getting a building with bathrooms erected, a pool donated and installed, and gathering all the supplies and equipment necessary to start a summer day camp program. Opening day was July 6, 1966, and campers came from Meriden, Wallingford, Southington, Cheshire, and all the cities and towns in Middlesex county served by MARC.
How are we funded?
At the end of each summer for the past 51 years, we have added up the number of campers from each town and the number of days they attended. We then multiply the number of days times our per/camper day cost to come up with a total cost for each town served that summer. A request for funding is then sent to each town in December/January. For the first 25 years of camp, cities and towns found it more cost effective to honor our request for funding rather than having to set up and run a program of their own. Over the years however, many towns have continued to send campers to us, but have stopped sending funding. Many towns offer free summer recreational programs for their residents; however, we have found that these programs are either not appropriate or are not equipped to service the special needs of our campers. We feel strongly that our campers deserve the same recreational opportunities as their non-disabled peers.
How can you help?
•If you know someone in your town who serves on the Town Council, Finance Committee, or works in the Park and Rec Dept. please go and speak to them about camp. •Consider a fundraising event or donation: 1.Have a Tag Sale 2.Have a Casual Dress Day at your office/school 3.Make a donation to Camp in honor of someone’s birthday, anniversary, graduation, retirement, etc. 4.Designate Camp as recipient of donations in memory of someone who as passed away. 5.Attend/Support Camp fundraisers. Groups in the communities we serve often have annual events to raise money for camp. These events are usually listed on our website, and emails are generally sent to the parents of our campers.
We cannot emphasize too strongly how crucial to the continuation of our camp family your involvement at this time is. You are an important factor. If you have any questions please call.
We thank you for your cooperation and know you will recognize this matter as one of the greatest importance to our children and our families.
Laurie J. Russell, President - 203-238-3691
Board of Directors