Fighting to reopen against long odds

First there was vandalism, then a swine flu epidemic, and then a leaky roof in the main activities building. And the country's longest running overnight camp for special needs adults and children has been closed for two and a half summer seasons.But they are working hard, now, to re-open in the next couple weeks."I don't think anything is gonna stop us," says John Hanmer, who's been rounding up donations and volunteers.High Esteem's Camp Goodwill one big need before it can serve its clients: the dining hall, with also serves as the main gathering point for campers, needs the new roof completed. Roofers are volunteering, but they need supplies to finish the job.They hope to have it done by the end of the week---and they hope to open in mid-July.Michelle Lovell, the camp president, says that even though they've been closed, they're getting calls from campers who want to come, and they're also getting resumes from potential counselors. She says they can take up to 33 campers a week, Thursday to Monday, and serve children through age 65, physically and developmentally disabled. offering 'everything a regular camp does,' from crafts to music to nature hikes and dancing, but with a much higher staff ratio---one counselor for every three campers. The respite for the campers is also a respite for their families.

There are helpers already, including inmates from the Madison County Jail, who'll be on site later this week to help clear debris from where one of the pavillions collapsed under weight of snow. Soldiers from Fort Drum have also been coming to help, and Michelle is thinking about opening the camp to them, after summer camping season is over, for respite for them, too. That is, if they can get it all together in time to open.

You wanted to know more about High Esteem's Camp Goodwill--you voted it our Facebook Story of the day. For more, check the HECG website. For information on donating, volunteering, or sending campers you can also email or call (315) 655-9735.