Volunteers help prep for camp

May 17, 2023 at 05:46 pm by Observer-Review

SENECA LAKE--Summer camp is a ritual for most kids, with lots of memories and stories to share even years later. This is just as true for children with disabilities. For years, the Boy Scout Camp on Seneca Lake (Camp Babcock-Hovey) partnered with several Rotary Clubs to host a two-week camp (Camp Onseyawa) for children with severe disabilities. When the Boy Scouts of America sold Camp Babcock-Hovey, many parents with special needs children weren’t sure what the summer of 2023 would hold. When Camp Whitman was identified as an option, Rotarians sprang into action.
Owned and operated by the Presbytery of Geneva and operated in partnership with the Presbytery of Genesee Valley, Camp Whitman was willing to host this two-week camp sponsored by Rotary Clubs in Ontario, Seneca, Yates, and Wayne counties.
“We were thrilled with the new location,” said Carl Schwartz, board member for Camp Onseyawa and practicing attorney. “But children with disabilities have special needs. We had invested for years in the Boy Scout camp’s infrastructure. Camp Whitman is a wonderful facility with great amenities. We are working hard now to introduce functionality that will make it an ideal site for children with disabilities.”
Sitting atop his tractor under a sprawling oak tree at Camp Whitman, Schwartz explained that a volunteer crew is working weekends to prepare the site for more cabins and pavilions, install electric, water, and a sound system and stage, upgrade the kitchen, construct an all-purpose building, and more.
“This is one of the most important projects that Rotary does,” said Schwartz. “For many families, the two weeks that these children are at the camp are a lifesaver. They give families much-needed respite and a chance to relax. It is no stretch for my family to say that without the hope and respite that this camp gave us from our son, Thorn, over the past seven years we would not have made it. My doctor gave me less than a year to live seven years ago due to the effects of autism on our family unless something changed drastically. Sending Thorn to Camp Onseyawa is part of how we made that change and why I am alive today to talk about it.”
Families do not pay to send their children to Camp Onseyawa. Professional staff, including nurses who are qualified to administer medications, are on-site 24/7. Rotary clubs in each of the four counties support the Camp with annual dues combined with community support.
The team will be holding an open house later this year to share Camp Onseyawa’s mission and vision with the public. A GoFundMe page has also been developed for donations at https://www.gofundme.com/f/camp-onseyawa-relocating-fundraiser.
BY Stephanie Specchio
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