April 11, 2012 - Summer is coming and with it, a rite of passage for many children— summer camp.
But for some children, the camp experience— swimming, canoeing, s'mores, games, crafts, new friends and more— is beyond reach.
Brandon Groveland Youth Assistance strives to make camp a reality for children who might not otherwise be able to go by offering sponsorships. With dwindling funds in a tough economy, however, the organization is hoping the community will chip in to help send as many children as possible. Currently, BGYA has only enough funds to sponsor six children, down by half from last year's 12 sponsored spots. It costs $325 to fund each camper to go to Camp Copneconic.
"Donations of any size are welcome," said Jane Derry-Burkett, BGYA camp chairperson. "These children we are sponsoring for camp would not have the opportunity otherwise. Any of us that remember our camping experiences as a youth can understand the importance of giving these kids an opportunity. It really makes a difference."
Lisa, a Brandon Township grandmother, is grateful that her grandson was able to attend camp once as a sixth grader and once in ninth grade, for a week each time.
"It's expensive to go to camp and this would be a financial hardship for us," she said. "He enjoys camp and makes lot of new friends and gets a different perspective."
She notes camp has kept him busy having fun, with activities like ziplining, kayaking, and fishing. Her grandson has had such a good time he hopes to go and be a counselor-in-training this year, if he can get the sponsors, so he will be able to volunteer his time when he is old enough.
Konrad Imirowicz said his children were able to go with the help of BGYA and had a great time.
"The camp is excellent, well run, with old time fun things to do," he said. "Unplugged as they say. It build kids up, gives them a chance to be kids, but also to take care of themselves, no mommy or daddy to hold their hand."
He noted that his daughter, fearful of going last year, now is ready to be first in line.
"She did not want to leave," he said. "The experience helped her come out of her shell, which in turn helped her in the other things we did in the summer, helped her make friends easier."
All four of Rochelle Nolin's children have benefitted from going to camp through BGYA sponsors, something she would not have been able to afford.
"It's important to them," she said. "I feel blessed. I am not able to afford that, and it makes it so I can provide for them in a way I couldn't on my own. I want them to feel like other kids who are able to do these things. This gives them hope they can do fun things that their friends whose parents can write a check get to do. They love it and really look forward to it."
Nolin, the child of a single mother, was able to go to camp herself as a child through the sponsorship of Berkley Youth Assistance.
"When I look back on my childhood, those are some of my fondest memories," she said. "You meet some awesome people out there."
To help send a child to camp, send any size donation via check made payable to BGYA, H.T. Burt Lifelong Learning Center, c/o Gail Innis, 209 Varsity Drive, Ortonville, MI 48462. Details: 248-627-6445.
Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville