Posted by Terrence Dalton
Rotarian Dan Reynolds, Director of Endless Possibilities with Akron Rotary Camp and Vice President of Camping Services and Properties with the Akron Area YMCA provided a Rotary Camp update on the impact of COVID, summer camp program success, respite camp programs, strategic planning, and the importance of the Chili Open.
Chili Open co-chairs Rotarian Jeff Sheeks, Owner of the S Group and Rotarian Cyndi Kane, Realtor with RE/MAX Crossroads Properties were excited to formally kick-off the 2022 Chili Open!
Dan reported that the camp had a fantastic Summer!  Camper numbers were still reduced, at ½ capacity, for COVID precautions – but the most important thing is – the camp was open and continued to find ways to safely meet the needs of campers, families, and staff through these most challenging times. 

Some camp highlights shared by Dan included:
  • The Bud Rogers Adventure Park was a great experience.  For many campers, this was a first time experience.
  • Hammocks – Campers loved having some down time in the hammocks around camp this summer.
  • Happy Day School - The return of day camp in Portage County at the Happy Day School.  We served about 40 campers every day at that site for 8 weeks. 
New Staff - we’ve had the opportunity to hire some new full time staff this year: 
  • Our new nurse is Jess Selden. She started in June. 
  • Our newest addition to our team is Ben Fink, our new program director.  Ben joined us in August. We just bid farewell to Tina Gardner, our past program director a couple weeks ago.  She’s moved to Florida to study zoology.  
Summer 2022:
As the camp plans for the summer of 2022 – the 98th year:
  • Excited about continuing to grow programs closer to pre-pandemic levels. 
  • Planning on operating at 75% capacity. 
  • Biggest challenges moving into the next summer season is staff recruiting. 
    • Not unlike every other industry right now, the camp community has struggled greatly the past few years to recruit and retain great camp staff.       
    • Camp board has been very proactive in supporting recruiting efforts.  This year camp increased weekly rates from $265/week to $325/week. 
    • 2022 draft budget has a starting rate of $450/week. 
Strategic Plan:
The camp board held a strategic planning retreat a few weeks ago and Dan is looking forward to sharing the outcomes of that plan once it is approved. 
As part of the planning process camp board and staff surveyed the Akron Rotarians, summer staff, and camper families.  This baseline feedback has been extremely valuable to the planning process. 
Listed below are just a couple pieces of information parents have shared as part of this survey process:
  • “Angie loves to come there, and I appreciate that I can leave her and not worry about her safety.”
  • “Rotary Camp is the highlight of my child’s year – especially this year with limited social experiences available.  Staff are amazing.  We are so grateful.” 
  • “Camp gives my camper a sense of belonging, teaches independence, and how to get along with others.”
  • “Camp provides two weeks of respite for us and two weeks of outdoor summer fun for our son.”  
  • “Camp gives our family a little break from Autism life.  We find it so valuable, especially for my typical kids to go do typical things and have my full attention.” 
  • “As a single parent, I value the respite time.  It’s been very difficult to find care for Adam.”
  • “Kenny’s year revolves around three dates – his birthday, Christmas, and Camp!”
Dan concluded his presentation with the following:
“In the past you may have heard me speak about the butterfly effect – the idea that your actions cause actions in other people who influence others that you will never know.  What we do as Akron Rotarians is the best example of the Butterfly Effect.” 
“Our efforts and successes at the Chili Open provide for life changing, meaningful experiences, to our campers, families, and staff.  For many of us, the Chili Open is a day of hard work, good times, beer, and Whitey’s chili but for countless others this event is a lifeline for support and respite, a sense of independence and belonging, and the most developmental growing experience in a college student’s life.” 
With that being said, let’s get behind the 2022 Chili Open campaign to raise $320,000 through sponsorships, camperships, raffle ticket sales, online auction, and volunteering on February 5, 2022 at Hale Farm and Village in Bath, Ohio.
Terry Dalton
Akron Rotary Club Secretary and Scholarship Chair