Sponsor a child to Camp CaPella

Posted Dec. 12, 2008, at 5:58 p.m.

The holidays at this time of year are traditionally the season for giving. But this season charitable donations may not be so easy to come by, as things are tough all over.

That’s why this is a critical moment for us.

We’re all tightening our belts right now, maybe cutting back on our budget for gifts and other expenses that we have usually spent without much worry in years past.

Nevertheless there are people who need help and who depend on charities. Unless we find ourselves suddenly needing service for a child with disabilities for example, we just don’t think about how much people depend on the non-profit charitable organizations.

Consider Camp CaPella. One of only two summer camps in Maine for children and adults with physical and developmental disabilities, Camp CaPella on Phillips Lake in Dedham depends solely on the contributions of people and businesses.

We get no financial support from state or federal funding sources. Sure parents contribute by paying as much as they can, but the reality is that due to the uniqueness of the camp and the need to have one camp counselor for every two campers the real costs are out of reach for most parents.

After 45 years of operations under United Cerebral Palsy of Maine, Camp CaPella was closed for two years. Last summer the camp reopened, and this year Camp CaPella will be its own non-profit 501 (c)(3) organization. Last summer 120 campers came to camp — those who might never have had the opportunity to learn and just have fun at camp.

I remember David, a 28-year-old guy with cerebral palsy who had attended Camp CaPella for years as a young child and now was back as a young man. While having lunch one day, he thanked me for bringing the camp “back to life.” Then, with tears in his eyes, he told me that every time he had come to camp he discovered things he never thought he would ever be able to do on his own.

“This summer,” he continued, “I was able to swim out to the float by myself. I never thought I would ever be able to do that.”

I recall a 10-year-old girl with Down syndrome who by the end of the week had built up her courage to lead the group in song and storytelling. With great pride and excitement, she stamped her feet and waved her arms in joy as she told her camp story. When she finished the kids and staff all cheered and clapped. The look on her face was indescribable.

Not a person in that room had understood a single word she had said. It didn’t matter. What did matter was that she had told her story and that everyone accepted her and helped her experience what most likely had been her best moment of her summer.

I had witnessed the magic of Camp CaPella where everyone is accepted and where kids can discover what their abilities are.

Today Camp CaPella is branching out to become a resource for people with disabilities on a year-round basis. In January 2009 the camp begins its winter and spring Saturday Day Camp program, and beginning in June the eight-week summer program begins.

Camp CaPella generally asks for donations in the form of camp sponsorships. For a limited amount, the contributor can sponsor a camper with special needs (and a family with limited financial resources) for one week, or a day, or a minute of camp.

I know that many people will be thinking about this in the days ahead. I wish that somehow they could see Camp CaPella through David’s eyes or through the eyes of the 10-year-old storytelling girl. If they could, they would know this was a good thing — and worth all the effort.

While I appreciate your problems — our problems — still I must ask you for a gift to send a child with disabilities to camp. Be their sponsor. They need you. And be assured that camper will have fun, make new childhood memories and discover new things they never thought they could do. That is quite a gift.

Dana Mosher is executive director of Camp CaPella, www.CampCapella.org.

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