DEDHAM, Maine — Doris Buffett, sister of billionaire investor Warren Buffett, has agreed to donate up to $500,000 through her family’s foundation to support Camp CaPella, a facility on Phillips Lake that serves children and adults with disabilities.
A substantial portion of the gift, which will be announced formally at a news conference today, will go toward buying the camp property and facilities outright. However, $65,000 will be given as a matching grant, which could be used to set up an endowment, a capital fund reserve account, a scholarship fund or all three.
“The way I feel about it is, How would I feel if I had a child who was handicapped?” Buffett said in remarks provided to the Bangor Daily News. “And when I know how tough it would be, my heart goes out to them, and I want to help, and I hope others will do the same.”
Buffett, who is from Omaha, Neb., but owns a home in Rockport, launched her family’s philanthropy firm, the Sunshine Lady Foundation Inc., in 1996 and has given tens of millions of dollars to organizations across the country. Her brother Warren, the well-known investor and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, is perennially listed among the wealthiest Americans.
Dana Mosher, executive director of Camp CaPella, said the unsolicited gift from the Sunshine Lady Foundation was enormously generous and positions the camp well.
“But it also means we must still raise money again this year, as none of these funds can be used for our current operating costs,” he said. “I would describe this gift as a hand up. It’s not a handout. It’s about building a foundation. It’s about building some security for Camp CaPella.”
Buffett indicated that her donation is meant to further stimulate community support.
“We’re not planning on supporting the camp on a yearly basis. We’ve made it possible for them to go forward, and we’re counting on big-hearted people in the state of Maine and elsewhere to support it, because it is an extremely worthy cause,” she said in a statement.
United Cerebral Palsy of Maine opened Camp CaPella in 1960 on the shores of Phillips Lake and operated the facility until 2006, when it closed because of money. The camp reopened in 2008 after several months of private fundraising by a small group of community supporters. Last summer, Camp CaPella became a separate nonprofit organization and has opened its doors year-round.
The property on Phillips Lake, which had been owned by UCP, will now be bought outright with the help of the recent gift. Effectively, Camp CaPella will have an interest-free, payment-free mortgage on the property and facilities. As Camp CaPella sustains its operations, the mortgage will be paid in full by the Sunshine Lady Foundation and ownership turned over to Camp CaPella.
“What we’re doing in this case is we’re loaning the money to Camp CaPella, and in five years, we’ll forgive the loan,” Buffett said in her remarks.
Each Sunshine Lady Foundation grant is considered an investment, according to the group’s mission, and the decision to grant funds is always based on an expected return: That is to change lives.
“I believe that children who are born with disabilities shouldn’t be precluded from enjoying the same fun and camaraderie that children who are not disabled enjoy,” Buffett said. “When I visited Camp CaPella, I was convinced that Dana Mosher and his staff were motivated by love and compassion, and I was impressed with their competence and dedication.”
Camp CaPella provides handicapped-accessible lakefront camp experiences on Phillips Lake for children and adults with physical and developmental disabilities and their families. It is the only camp of its kind in eastern and northern Maine.
“I think when people come here — and they don’t have to spend long here — and they see what happens here, when they see and watch the magic, they will understand the purpose,” Mosher said.
“It doesn’t take long.”
For information about Camp CaPella, visit www.campcapella.org.