WATERBURY –– With a new month starting Monday and springtime three weeks later, it is only natural for thoughts and aspirations to start projecting forward to summer and the next camping season.
The Greater Waterbury Campership Fund is off to a good start with donations having hit $56,774 heading into March.
That already is more than enough to have covered tuition costs of $34,386 for the 60 underprivileged youngsters who attended camp in 2020, a record-low number in recent Campership history because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, the Campership Fund’s board of directors and loyal supporters of the program are hopeful a more robust camping season will play out in 2021, one not hampered by health concerns that significantly altered the outdoor camping landscape in the state last year.
The board had the foresight to slot $250,000 it had accrued the past year into its Next 50 fund so all conceivable tuition costs can be handled this year and beyond, if necessary, no matter how many eligible applicants scamper off for their week of fun in the sun.
A more typical Campership Fund season for the program has 400 to 500 children participating; in 2019, 434 kids were serviced at a tuition cost of $157,457.
In addition to the many thoughtful and caring individuals who generously support the Campership Fund year after year, large and small businesses, church groups, civic clubs, schools and philanthropic entities send in donations year round. Special employee collections stemming from “Casual Friday” or similar events throughout the area also help augment the coffers.
Many contributions also are made in loving memory of a departed individual, or in honor of a special someone still living.
Garrett and Joanne Schifilliti of Middlebury is one such couple who wanted to pay tribute to special friend Albert J. Bibeau Jr., a renowned teacher who died Feb. 3 at age 73.
“I knew him, knew his sister, we were very good friends with the family,” said Joanne Schifilliti, a retired teacher herself from the Waterbury school system.
“The Campership Fund is something I always donate to anyway, and I thought this would be an appropriate way to remember Albert,” she said. “He was so involved with kids and cared so much about them as an educator.”
And if the COVID-19 scourge can continue on a downward trend over the course of the spring, and safety guidelines permit, the Campership Fund will hope to bring back popular attractions like the Big Green Truck Pizza fundraiser at the Greater Waterbury YMCA’s Camp Mataucha in Watertown, and the rousing and unpredictable solicitation night at the Palace Theater in Waterbury. The current situation suggests those events might be possible in late summer or early fall, if the state continues its vaccination plan and if COVID numbers continue to drop.
The Campership Fund, a 501(c) 3, is required to adhere to its 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 by the United Way of Greater Waterbury at no charge.
Contributions may be sent to Greater Waterbury Campership Fund, 389 Meadow St., Waterbury, CT 06722.
Donations amounting to $2,090 recently were received from:
- Ronald and Marianne Dubuque, Waterbury, $1,200
- Anonymous, Waterbury, in memory of Chuck Kellogg, $300
- Mary Minicucci, Cheshire, in memory of Francis “Moose” McCormack, golfing buddy of the late Arnold Minicucci, from Arnold’s family, $200
- Sean Dragonetti and Amy Fong, New Fairfield, in memory of William McEntee, $100
- Elmer and Marion Deschaine, Oakville, $100
- Deborah D’Agostino, Watertown, in memory of Robert C. Johnson, $50
- Garrett and Joanne Schifilliti, Middlebury, in memory of Albert Bibeau, a passionate educator of 46 years, $50
- Douglas and Sharon Van Wie, Cheshire, $50
- Cyber Grants, $40