Camp Ondessonk as a Vehicle for Past, Present, and Future Growth through Learning
By the time Camp Ondessonk was established in 1959, traditional youth summer camps established roots throughout the Northeastern United States, and were becoming more prevalent in other areas of the country. From the beginning, the broad goal of the youth camping movement was to educate. In 1922, Charles W. Eliot, former president of Harvard University, boldly stated, “the organized summer camp is the most important step in education that America has given the world” (Camping Magazine, Sep/Oct 2010). Those of us fortunate enough to experience a well-run summer camp as kids would certainly agree. Learning is much more than the wallpaper portion of the experience. It is the floor, furniture and fixtures as well.
Though many things in our world have changed since 1881 when Camp Chocorua (widely accepted as the first summer camp) was established “to meet special educational needs” (CM, Sep/Oct 2010); or since 1959, the year Camp Ondessonk was established to “give boys and girls a chance to enjoy and appreciate the beauty of God’s creation,” many of the greatest things about traditional summer camping have remained the same. There is a lot to be learned from living in an open air tree house cabin, exploring creeks and canyons, riding horses, and meeting kids and counselors from places afar.
When deliberating Camp Ondessonk’s place in educating campers, I feel we must continue to aggressively address our three greatest challenges. Interestingly enough, none of the three requires us to “improve” or “change” the core Ondessonk experience drastically. In other words, we are already very good at summer camp. First, we must continue to increase our summer enrollment. Last summer we served 258 more campers than in 2009; an 11% increase. Secondly, we must continue to make sacrifices while we pay down the debt incurred when the new Dining Hall was built in 2002-03. We have about five years left, and the monthly payments are sometimes very difficult to make. One thing is certain: Camp Ondessonk will not take on a capital project in the future without first securing the support and funding necessary to avoid a large loan. Our third challenge is the most daunting and somewhat difficult to talk about. Even so, the subject must be addressed in order to fortify the organization, so here goes…
We need to improve our success when it comes to annual fundraising. Though many of Ondessonk’s past campers, staff, parents and other stakeholders make an annual tax-deductible gift, far more do not. Whether it is a $10, $50, $500, or $5,000 gift, more people who love Camp Ondessonk. Camp Ondessonk must become annual donors. As a self-sufficient, non-profit ministry, we cover the majority of our operating expenses with camper and other program participant fees. The remainder of our operating expenses is covered with generous gifts from donors.
Thank you to those who consistently make an annual gift. The organization is stronger because of you. To those ready to deepen your relationship with the organization, there is no better time. Please come home to Ondessonk and show your support with an annual gift. The campers of the past, present and future deserve your support. With your help, there is still a lot of learning that can be done.
Dan King, Executive Director