NEW FRANKLIN: The goal was so lofty, even those working to raise the necessary funds feared it might not be possible to reach.
But the money kept coming in, so the work to make improvements at the Akron Rotary Camp for children with special needs rolled on.
So far, the effort has raised $3.3 million of the $3.5 million goal and campers this year will enjoy renovated heated and air-conditioned cabins with modern bath facilities at the camp that was founded in 1924 for children with disabilities.
From the start, many people involved in the camp doubted the campaign could reach its ambitious goal, said Executive Director Dan Reynolds.
“When you come to camp and see these kids, it was easy. All we had to do was share the story of how the camp saves lives, ” he said.
Each year the camp serves 1,800 children and adults with special needs, and their parents and siblings. The camp has three full-time staff members, four part-time staffers and about 35 counselors.
In 2010, Rotary members and YMCA officials collaborated on a capital campaign to raise funds to replace several buildings along the shore of Rex Lake.
Organizers projected that the campaign dubbed “Sailing the Course, Together” would take about a year to meet its goal.
The recession slowed contributions considerably, Reynolds said.
With the campaign just $200,000 short of its goal, a regatta-themed fundraiser is being planned for Sept. 28 to help meet it.
The camp experienced a milestone this month when the old recreation hall was demolished to make room for a green area fronting a new $1.65-million, 10,000-square-foot recreation and resource center overlooking the water.
The building will offer campers a large recreation area, conference space, a health center and an elevator. It will house staff offices and include a multisensory room, an animal room to house reptiles, and a resource room for staff and parents.
The building is expected to be completed in July.
Stone fireplaces will help retain the traditional camp experience during winter respite weekends as well as on dreary summer days when outdoor campfires are not possible, said Reynolds.
“Camp is about being outside, but occasionally, it rains. We like to call it liquid sunshine,” he said.
Reynolds described the architectural style of building to be Adirondack with a nautical flair. The roof line is supported by a 40-foot section of a 130-year-old Douglas fir. A working windmill will sit on top of the building and a lakeside observation deck will provide visitors with a breathtaking view.
Ed Crikity, a field superintendent for Bennett Construction Management, said the project his workers have been toiling at has “a little bit of everything.”
“I call it fabulous,” he added.
If the reaction from recent respite campers is any indication, summer campers will love their new digs, said Reynolds.
“This is where they come to be typical kids having fun. As parents, what more do we want than for our kids to be typical kids during the camp experience,” he said.
Donations to the campaign are tax deductible and can be sent to Akron Rotary Camp Capital Campaign, 4460 Rex Lake Dr., Akron, OH 44319. For more information, call 330-644-4512 or visit www. sailingthecourse.org or www.gotcamp.org.
Kathy Antoniotti can be reached at 330-996-3565 or firstname.lastname@example.org.