Greater Waterbury Campership Fund Update: Board takes unprecedented step to ensure all applicants get a week of fun

WATERBURY — Unexpected good has come from the COVID-19 pandemic, thanks to the unwavering support of friends of the Greater Waterbury Campership Fund who believe in the nonprofit’s mission.

The Campership Fund’s board of directors took a major, unprecedented step to ensure all eligible applicants for camperships will get their opportunity for a week of summertime fun, for at least the few years and possibly longer.

The board voted to transfer $250,000 into the program’s Next 50 account created in 2019 to mark the nonprofit’s 50th anniversary. The tuition-only account was created to cover tuition costs should revenue fall short for any particular camping season. In years past, directors had years where they scrambled to raise more money at the last minute, should demand exceed donations.

This exceptional step was possible because while the COVID-19 pandemic limited the number of operating camps and applicants in 2020, friends of Campership continued to support the effort of offering the life-changing experience of camp to as many children as possible. Many donors acknowledged they knew the money might not be spent in 2020, or perhaps even 2021, but they wanted to ensure the Campership Fund was prepared for a strong comeback when the pandemic ends.

“That money is there if we need it,” said Michael Mucciacciaro, Campership Fund treasurer and longtime board member. “It’s as good a reason as any to put that money aside.”

Mucciacciaro said only $34,386 was spent for tuition during last year’s camping season that was significantly diminished by the surge of the COVID-19 pandemic. Applications for camperships dropped dramatically and multiple camping sites that offer use of their facilities to the Campership Fund curtailed operations or did not open at all.

Of the 72 applicants approved for camperships in 2020, 60 youngsters actually went to camp. Mucciacciaro said that compares to $157,457 spent on tuition in 2019, when 434 underprivileged children from Greater Waterbury were served.

Despite the pandemic’s restrictions, generous supporters of the Campership Fund continued to send in their contributions. The response was gratifying in light of all fun, socially-oriented fundraisers, including the Big Green Truck Pizza event in May, and the autumn night at the Palace Theater, had to be canceled in 2020 and their fate remains in question this year.

The Campership Fund received a huge, unexpected, one-time boost from the Elsie R. Mannweiler Trust that sent in three major installments, totaling $157,717, to the Campership Fund beginning last April.

Barbara Davitt, WATR radio personality who has been on the Campership board of directors more than 30 years, said, “We want to make sure that if the money is there, we send kids off to camp. We have to put the money into play. It would be a shame if we are not able to do that this year. And of course we want to build up the Next 50 fund.”

The 2021 campaign will go on, and a goal announced at kickoff, said Anne Karolyi, Campership Fund president and managing editor of the Republican-American and The Sunday Republican.

“We’re still going to raise money for this summer, hoping that camps can reopen and more children can attend this year, and we can keep this incredible safety net in the Next 50 for the future,” Karolyi said. “Plus, our friends at the United Way predict the applicant pool could be larger, with so many families out of work because of the pandemic. We’ll tap that emergency fund gladly if it means our numbers of kids headed to camp can grow considerably every year.”

Donations, accepted year-round, have since the start of January reached $54,684.
The Campership Fund, a 501(c) 3, is mandated to adhere to guidelines of no salaries for the board and no expenses; every penny raised goes 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.

The screening and eligibility processes for the Campership Fund are handled at no charge by the United Way of Greater Waterbury.

Donations to the Campership Fund are accepted year round. Contributions may be sent to Greater Waterbury Campership Fund, 389 Meadow St., Waterbury, CT 06722.
Contributions amounting to $180 recently were received from:

• The Rev. Robert E. and Mrs. Nancy Rhodes Jr., Wolcott, in memory of grandson R-Jay Domondon, Petty Officer 3rd Class, U.S. Navy, $100
• Shirley and Michael Kerzner, Oxford, $50
• George and Frances Dunn, Waterbury, in memory of Jeff Dunn, $30