It is an understatement to say that we are looking forward to providing a safe, fun, life-enriching experience to children and young adults with special needs and chronic illnesses this year. While “normal” may still be slightly out of reach, we recently hosted our first group of campers in over a year. The staff was relieved, ecstatic, and emotional to once again serve the children and adults who need and benefit from the unique services we provide.
Even prior to the pandemic, however, safety was Camp Aranzazu’s highest priority. Shortly after opening our doors in 2006, we met the American Camp Association (ACA)’s rigorous standards for accreditation and have continued to do so ever since. I am grateful that the ACA now has provided Camp Aranzazu and thousands of other camps with detailed guidelines and comprehensive educational resources regarding how to operate safely in the current environment. We have used these guidelines to develop protocols and procedures specific to Camp Aranzazu and are excited that so many of our partners have signed up to return.
While we have had numerous challenges over the years, this latest one made me realize just how uniquely vulnerable Camp Aranzazu is. There are the people we serve — almost all of whom have serious, life-threatening, chronic illnesses and conditions. Then there is our coastal location, which makes us vulnerable to hurricanes and tropical storms. Our commitment to underwriting much of the cost of camp also makes us vulnerable, as we are dependent on the communities we serve to help us raise approximately $1.2 million each year so that as many children and adults as possible can benefit from our unique form of therapy. And, lastly, there is the way in which we deliver our services. While it never would have been considered a vulnerability before last year, being in close proximity has always been part of the magic of camp — spending days together, sharing meals, laughs, sleeping quarters, sports equipment, everything.
All that said — I also know that Camp Aranzazu is as resilient as it is vulnerable. Maybe it has something to do with our mission and the people we serve. The board and staff know how to practice what we preach. We bounce back. We see the challenges, agree on a path forward, and start moving in that direction.
So in that light, Camp Aranzazu’s Board of Directors recently agreed to launch the Camp Aranzazu Resiliency Fund Campaign. The Resiliency Fund is a permanent endowment that will provide a stable, predictable source of revenue to support both the maintenance of the Camp’s facilities and the underwriting of camper fees. A very generous donor has pledged $1 million outright and has offered to match all gifts made to the Resiliency Fund by December 2022, up to $2.5 million. Our goal is to raise a total of $10 million by December 2024.
While our goal is ambitious, reaching it will be transformational for the Camp. It will ensure that we always will be able to address the unmet social, emotional, and physical needs of children and adults with special needs and chronic illnesses, regardless of whatever new and unique challenges arise.
If ever there were a time to ponder what matters most and to think about the legacy we each will leave behind, it is now. I look forward to working with you — our loyal and generous friends — to help make this big dream come true.
Virginia C. Ballard, President
For more information on Camp Aranzazu’s 2021 plans, you can check out our April Camp Connections newsletter.