Greater Waterbury Campership Fund Update: Despite pandemic, fund has ‘a lot to be thankful for’

WATERBURY — The Greater Waterbury Campership Fund’s journey through 2020, like virtually all segments of society and lifestyle, was significantly effected by the COVID-19 pandemic that left program directors and supporters scrambling for answers and solutions.

Yet despite the upheaval, silver linings emerged heading into Thanksgiving and the holiday season.

“It’s unbelievable that we’ve done this well,” said Barbara Davitt, WATR radio personality who has served on the Campership Fund’s board of directors more than three decades.

“With everything that’s been going on, I’m looking back and realizing we have a lot to be thankful for. People have been generous in spite of the pandemic, and thought, ‘Let’s make some kids happy.’”

The Campership Fund serviced 72 underprivileged youngsters from Greater Waterbury this past summer, a dramatic decrease from the 434 campers in 2019. Tuition costs came to $38,646.

Not only were applications down, but several camping facilities that welcome Campership kids annually did not open due to the pandemic.

Nonetheless, enthusiastic supporters of the program, buoyed by foundation grants and unexpected bequests, raised $206,428 this year, with a month to go. That figure already surpassed the $165,000 goal set back in the spring.

Davitt said there have been Campership campaigns in the past when the program’s revenue goal was not met or “came close” to the target figure, but most of the years in the fund’s 51-year history have been successful.

“The kids enjoy the camp every year, and every year I think we’ll make the goal,” said fund treasurer Mike Mucciacciaro, also a longtime board member.

He said this year there seemed to be more contributions from outside Greater Waterbury and throughout Litchfield County, especially those made in memory of a loved one, and the bequests and grants certainly were welcome.

Davitt believes with so many parents home schooling or monitoring online learning, as well as supervising the home front, the Campership Fund summer season, albeit it truncated, was an opportunity for the adults to “get the kids out for the house for awhile.”

“We’re extremely grateful for the continued loyal support of the community,” said Middlebury attorney and board member Jack Senich. “This puts us in the position of building up a ‘Rainy Day Fund’ for the future if we happen to come up short some year.”

Senich also lauded the United Way of Greater Waterbury’s “outstanding” and volunteered administrative services in handing the youth applications component of the program, and the camping facilities that assist the Campership Fund for “doing whatever it takes to get their camps running, and we know they will be there to provide the same services in the future.”

Donations are accepted year round, so further contributions through December will be applied to the 2021 and future campaigns to keep the Campership Fund chugging along into its next half-century.

The Campership Fund, a 501(c) 3, is mandated to adhere to guidelines of no salaries for the all-volunteer board, no expenses and every penny raised going to the cost of sending children to camp.

Families who receive SNAP benefits or meet federal poverty guidelines, and with children ages 5 to 18, living in Bethlehem, Cheshire, Middlebury, Prospect, Southbury, Thomaston, Waterbury, Watertown, Wolcott and Woodbury, are eligible to apply.

Schools and philanthropic entities, large and small businesses, individuals, civic clubs and church groups support the Campership Fund cause year round through their contributions. Proceeds from special events or employee-driven in-house activities, such as “Casual Friday” dress-down days, also add to the fund.

Donations may be sent to Greater Waterbury Campership Fund, 389 Meadow St., Waterbury, CT 06722.

Donations recently received for $150 included:

• Mr. and Mrs. Gary and Janice Saam, Naugatuck, in memory of our good friend Billy McEntee, $100

•  Mr. and Mrs. John and Anna Shove, Waterbury, in memory of a great guy Bill McEntee, “Billy Mack,” $25

•  Ms. Marilyn Mangini, Wolcott, in memory of my mother, Madelyn L. Mangini, $25