WATERBURY — Cautious optimism abounds on the cusp of the 2021 Greater Waterbury Campership Fund summer camping season that formally will launch its new fundraising campaign March 14.
All enthusiastic participants in, and supporters of, the program are hoping to leave behind the trail of uncertainty that significantly altered the 2020 season because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have 15 camps that have signed up to return to the Greater Waterbury Campership Program for 2021 camp season,” said Renée Young, community impact manager for United Way of Greater Waterbury, which annually handles the screening and eligibility process for the Campership Fund.
“This is great news considering the impact COVID-19 had on the program last year,” she said. “Early in the year of 2020 we anticipated 19 camps to participate; after COVID hit, by summer the participating camps list was down to seven camps that were able to open safely and operate under specific guidelines and restrictions.”
The program in the past has provided scholarships for up to 500 underprivileged youngsters. Last season there were 72 children who applied for a camp scholarship and were awarded, Young said, but only 64 actually attended.
The brunt of the attendees were at Greater Waterbury YMCA’s flagship facility in Watertown, Camp Mataucha, situated alongside Smith Pond and with a trove of amenities to assure campers will have unforgettable memories.
United Way will continue to collaborate with the Waterbury Board of Education, Young said, to help “get the word out to families” regarding camp scholarships provided by the Campership Fund’s board of directors.
Campership information also is being sent “directly to community partners and agencies” that work closely with families, Young said, and furthermore is shared with school districts within the 10-town service area of the United Way, as well as 2-1-1.
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 for camperships.
“With the high unemployment rate, it is expected more households will meet the financial qualifications to receive a scholarship, which leads us to expect a higher number in applications this year, provided families feel safe sending their children to camp,” Young said.
A target goal of $160,000 already has been set by the Campership Fund board for the 2021 campaign, and $57,299 has been donated so far and put in the coffers for tuition. No matter how this year’s campaign fares, there is $250,000 in the Next 50 auxiliary fund to draw upon as backup.
Next 50 was created by the board in 2019, the 50th anniversary year of the Campership Fund. Its revenue only can be applied toward tuition in case funding comes up short for any particular future camping season.
Tuition costs were $34,386 for the pared-down 2020 season. For the more typical 2019 season, tuition expenses were $157,457 for 434 kids who actively participated.
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.
Contributions may be sent to Greater Waterbury Campership Fund, 389 Meadow St., Waterbury, CT 06722.
Donations amounting to $525 recently were received from:
• Bonnie D. Veillette and Stephanie L. DeLuca, Naugatuck, in memory of Gilbert P. Mauriello, $100
• Mr. and Mrs. Selim and Linda Noujaim, and Bridget Noujaim, Waterbury, in memory of Ann Charbonneau, $100
• Mr. and Mrs. Carl and Carolyn Minicucci, Watertown, in memory of Arnold Minicucci on his birthday March 5, $100
• Marie Bavone, via the Pitney Bowes Foundation, $100
• Litchfield Ford, Litchfield, in memory of Mike D’Agostino, $50
• Linda Esposito, East Haven, and the family of Ann Charbonneau, in memory of Ann Charbonneau, $50
• Anthony Moscato and the Moscato family, East Haven, with deepest sympathy in memory of Ann Charbonneau, $25