For the past 50 years, the New York District Kiwanis Foundation has operated Kamp Kiwanis in upstate Taberg. Every year roughly 800 children and developmentally disabled adults gather for a week of summer fun.
The schedule is divided into eight sessions of nearly 100 attendees each, the first two weeks are for adults and the next six are for the children. The 102-acre property serves to give children, many who may come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, have special needs or have parents serving in the military, the opportunity for an enjoyable sleep-away camp experience.
Tuition is $465 plus a $150 transportation cost, but according to Anthony Merendino, a member of the Peninsula Kiwanis and a board member of the New York Foundation, 98 percent of children are sponsored with “camper-ships” and don’t pay a fee.
“It’s pretty amazing that this has been able to go on for 50 years,” Merendino said. “It becomes sort of addicting seeing the results of what you’re doing for the children”
In Lynbrook, the newly-established Kiwanis Club is looking to raise funds to send a camper from the Southwest Division, which includes East Rockaway and other areas. “We’re very supportive of Kamp Kiwanis,” President Denise Rogers said.
“It’s a great experience for the kids,” said East Rockaway Kiwanis President Dan Gilloon. “We’ve done some fundraising for them and it’s a great place.”
Once upstate, campers take part in a variety of activities, such as canoeing, hiking, fishing, arts and crafts and sporting events. They’re guided by a staff of about 50 counselors, most of whom are college-aged students. With Kiwanis being an international organization, roughly half the staff comes from other countries.
The Kiwanis of Rome, N.Y., sold the camp to the NYDKF in 1968 for $1 because they couldn’t care for the property. To celebrate and raise money for the camp, the foundation is hosting a gala this Sunday at the Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury. Members, former staffers, campers and supportive community members will attend. Cohen said that the Five Towns group holds pancake breakfasts and wine nights to fundraise.
Executive Director Rebecca Clemence said the money raised at the gala would go toward repaving the blacktop around the camp, and ensuring that it remains handicap accessible. “Kamp Kiwanis is truly a special place that’s impacted thousands of lives across New York,” she said. “The future looks bright as it ever has and I look forward to helping to build a lasting legacy of helping people."
—Melissa Koenig contributed to this story.