Greater Waterbury Campership Fund: Mission, supporters to receive award

Karen Montini, community editor of the Republican-American and secretary of the Greater Waterbury Campership Fund, records at an acceptance speech on behalf of the nonprofit at PowerStation studios in Cheshire.

WATERBURY — The Greater Waterbury Campership Fund – or actually, generations of supporters who make the nonprofit’s mission possible – will be recognized later this month with an award from the United Way of Greater Waterbury.

The Campership Fund, which has been serving the area for five decades, has been selected for the United Way’s “Community Volunteer of the Year” honor for its longtime commitment to bettering children’s lives. The nonprofit marked its 50th anniversary in 2019.

The recognition will take place April 29 during the United Way’s 34th annual Celebration and Awards event that will be conducted virtually this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The event starts at 6 p.m.

The United Way volunteers it staff to vet applicants, communicate between camps and the Campership Fund board, and distribute information each spring about how eligible families can apply for free summer camp.

Leaders of the United Way’s predecessors approached William J. Pape in 1969 about his interest in helping start and support a charity to send children to summer camp. Pape, who served as editor and publisher of the Republican-American and The Sunday Republican for decades, died at age 87 in 2019, Campership’s 50th year.

Pape readily agreed, and a partnership was born between his new charity and the United Way.

“United Way has been proud to be a part of the Campership Fund since its inception in 1969,” said Kristen Jacoby, the United Way’s president and chief professional officer. “We have always had a strong focus on youth and as the camp experience nurtures social skills, models healthy living, eases the summer slide, enhances self-confidence, fosters friendships and teamwork and encourages personal growth. We are so thankful to have the volunteers of the Greater Waterbury Campership Fund to make this opportunity possible.”

Sending underprivileged youngsters from the region off for a week of fun in the sun at summer camp has been the focus of the Campership Fund, now in its 52nd year. Kids experience a new environment, learn useful life skills from positive role models, make lasting friendships and observe the keys to becoming well-respected citizens.

“For many kids it is an opportunity to have an experience they will remember for a lifetime,” Jacoby said.

The annual effort to help as many kids as possible happens thanks to individuals, businesses and foundations who offer their financial support. “A Community Award speaks right to what makes the Campership Fund successful: a grassroots effort from many hands pulling together toward the same goal,” said Anne Karolyi, managing editor of the Republican-American, The Sunday Republican and, and president of the Campership Fund. “Campership has maintained for its half-century its edit of no salaries, no expenses, with every penny raised in the name of tuition going to send a child to summer camp. That happens only because of friends of Campership who believe in the value of that experience.”

The 2021 fundraising campaign formally has been underway since March 14 and has received $77,349 in donations to date toward the target goal of $160,000. Generous individuals, large and small businesses, schools and churches, civic clubs and philanthropic entities are among the main revenue generators for the Campership Fund that has raised millions since the program’s first foot steps.

The then-surging COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic decimated the 2020 camping season for most facilities in the state, with many cutting back on their participation numbers or shutting down their operations entirely due to safety and health issues. The Campership Fund managed to service 64 eligible children at an overall tuition cost of $34,386.

A more typical program year was 2019, when 434 kids participated at a tuition cost of $157,457. The easing of health and safety guidelines, and varying financial situations with families, are among factors that could send applications soaring again. The United Way is accepting applications through Friday, May 14, for scholarship slots.

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 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 are accepted year round.

Contributions amounting to $925 recently were received from:

  • Tammalene Mitman, Scarborough, Maine, in memory of Jon Kellogg’s red feather and his belief that every kid should have the chance to go to camp and earn their own, $250
  • Paul and Sheila Carey, Cheshire, in memory of Thomas and Marcia Brayton, $200
  • Carol P. Kohanow, Jo Ann Polletta, and children Erica and Gabi, in memory of Nick E. Kohanow and Joe R. Polletta, $150
  • George Albino, Waterbury, in memory of my wife, Elaine Albino, $100
  • Thomas and Katherine Upson, Waterbury, $100
  • Nick and Dorothy Rinaldi, Watertown, in memory of our dear friend Lester Pierson, $100
  • Henri, Dannielle, and Michelle Cormier, Waterbury, in memory of Jackie Cormier of Somerset, Mass., $25