Campership Fund fundraising challenge begins Sunday

WATERBURY — A familiar fundraising challenge by longtime supporters Frank and Sandy Monteiro for the Greater Waterbury Campership Fund starts today. The generous offer is a boost as the 2021 spring campaign kicks off with more camps, and therefore more campers, ready for a summer less troubled by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Prospect couple dropped their challenge in 2020, when it became clear the pandemic started wrecking havoc with schools, jobs, restaurants, churches and ultimately camps, most of which shut down last summer.

“The need to me is going to be greater this year,” said Frank J. Monteiro, president and chief executive officer of Drew International and Drew Marine, of Naugatuck and Waterbury. “Simply put, kids have been holed up in the house, many have been learning remotely or have been home-schooled, and getting them off to camp this year is going to be very important.”

The Monteiro family, including Frank, wife Sandy, who is a Campership director, and their son Anthony will match $5,000 raised over the next three weeks, starting with donations dated today. Drew Marine will also donate $5,000, for a total challenge goal of $15,000.

Sandy, Anthony and Frank J. Monteiro of Prospect stand ready to donate $5,000 to the Greater Waterbury Campership Fund if $5,000 is raised in the next three weeks. Their challenge starts March 14. Also, Drew International and Drew Marine, of which Frank J. Monteiro is CEO, will donate $5,000, for a challenge goal of $15,000. Contributed photo/Jason Van Stone, Drew Marine

Donations in 2021 so far have reached $58,824.

“This year, if COVID restrictions become more friendly, and it is safe to operate, we hope to get kids back at camp this summer,” Frank J. Monteiro said.

The United Way of Greater Waterbury, which handles the screening and eligibility process for the Campership Fund each year, reported 15 camps had signed up by early March to return to the Campership Fund program this season. Only seven camps opened safely and operated under specific guidelines and restrictions in 2020.

Last season 72 children applied for and were given camp scholarships, and 64 actually attended. Tuition costs were $34,386.

That compares to a more typical camping season such as 2019, when tuition expenses were $157,457 for 434 area youngsters participated.

Late last week, the United Way of Greater Waterbury began disseminating Campership Fund application information to school districts and community partners and agencies within its 10-community area, as well as to the 2-1-1 Info Line.

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.

“So much feels hopeful this spring, after the challenges of 2020, and this challenge from the Monteiros, and from Drew Marine, feels like another step toward gaining our lives back after this pandemic,” said Anne Karolyi, managing editor of the Republican-American and Sunday Republican, and president of the Campership Fund. “We’re grateful they’ve returned to give us this spark and look toward summer.”

The volunteer Campership Fund board has set a target goal of $160,000 for 2021, but no matter how this year’s campaign fares, there already is $250,000 in the Next 50 auxiliary fund to draw upon as backup.

Next 50 was established 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.

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 $1,525 recently were received from:

Women’s Fellowship of First Congregational Church of Watertown, $500

Victor and Susan Atkins, of Watertown, in memory of my sister, Ann Charbonneau, $500

William and Janet Dunbar, Watertown, in memory of Ann Charbonneau, $100

William B. Howard, Simsbury, $100

Joseph and Cynthia Skerritt, Wolcott, in memory of Ann Charbonneau, $100

Anonymous, Oakville, in memory of Ann Charbonneau, $50

Donald and Carol Stepanek, Watertown, in memory of Ann Charbonneau, $50

Phil and Tara Gryga, Wolcott, in memory of “Moose” McCormack, $50

David Kaufman, Watertown, $50

Donald and Teresa Dangelo, Waterbury, $25