FEYC Director Message
- Written by Nick Miller
Summer camp 2018 has come and gone, and thanks to your diligence, we again set records for the number of campers attending. This year we filled 2,335 of the 2352 available beds. This is not only a record number of total campers, but it is also a record number of beds filled from our wait list. Over 400 campers from our wait list made it to camp. Jen Miller, our registrar, worked tirelessly to ensure that as spaces opened due to cancellations, they were filled with campers still hoping for a chance to attend. So, thank you for sending us the campers!
Registration for summer camp 2019 will begin early this year. We have already begun registration for the handful of campers who did not make it off the wait list from last year and for any camper who will be too old to attend after next summer. We will have more details about early registration for all other campers by our midyear convention, so be on the lookout.
Finally, I want to tell you about a wonderful group that we’ve partnered with this year. Up until last year, the Muscular Dystrophy Association had four separate locations across Florida where they hosted a week of camp for children diagnosed with muscular dystrophy. The organization wanted to consolidate these into a single location, but not many camps are designed to host 300 or more people and to be 100% accessible for groups with special needs. After much searching and frustration, the Florida MDA camp directors heard about the Florida Elks Youth Camp (from one of our therapy patients!) and reached out to us.
They were blown away after their first site visit. They couldn’t believe the vision and foresight the Florida Elks put into designing this facility. In return, we were amazed at the scope of MDA’s dedication to the children diagnosed with muscular dystrophy in Florida. We quickly realized what a good match this would be, and a week after summer camp 2018 finished, we hosted the first Camp MDA at the Florida Elks Youth Camp. With their four sites consolidated at your camp, Florida became the largest MDA camp in the country!
Over 125 campers and 175 volunteers from all over the state attended. Campers enjoyed a one-to-one ratio with a volunteer camp counselor and were treated to an incredible week of activities ranging from swimming to climbing on the ropes course to partying at a dance in the gym. No activities were off-limits due to limited mobility or special needs. These kids were able to celebrate a week of just being kids. One of the most incredible things about the week, however, was how this experience impacted the volunteers as much as the campers.
For instance, many of the high school volunteers were players from the Plant High School football team in Tampa. Their coach, Robert Weiner, has been part of Camp MDA for over 37 years, and he typically brings the boys in as volunteers. This year, however, with the move to FEYC, the camp dates were pushed a week later than normal. This coincided with the first week that the team could practice in pads, which is a big part of the high school preseason. Coach Weiner canceled this incredibly important week of practice to allow the boys to volunteer at Camp MDA. The full story can be read in the Tampa Bay Times online at tampabay.com/sports/high-schools/2018/08/20/the-reason-powerhouse-plant-missed-a-full-week-of-practice-in-pads/.
What an incredible lesson it was for these young men! Considering the dedication of this coach, his players and all the volunteers of Florida’s MDA, we will be doing something unprecedented for FEYC. Starting with summer camp 2019 and in partnership with the MDA, we will be adding an eighth week to our summer camp program. We will commit to hosting Camp MDA at the Florida Elks Youth Camp the week after our seventh session for as long as they need us. There will be more information about the details of this partnership at both the midyear convention in November and at our February quarterly meeting at camp.
As always, thank you for all you do as Elks and for making your youth camp the best!
Nick Miller, Director
Florida Elks Youth Camp