The United Way of Northeastern South Dakota is much more than a fundraiser. It also promotes many of the programs this community supports. In this new series, we’ll highlight the great work that happens in our region.
While summer camp may seem like an eternity away, one set of campers is ready for their next camping experience. The Aberdeen Family YMCA, United Way, and the Aberdeen Catholic Schools work together to bring a full camp experience to those that may not otherwise get that chance. Camp DreamMakers is a two-week summer camp held during the months of June and July designed specifically for youth ages 5-21 that have a physical, hearing, speech, vision, gross motor, or neurological condition. The camp runs in two separate sessions hosting 30-35 participants each time. Camp DreamMakers takes full advantage of all the incredible opportunities around the Aberdeen area, including: horseback riding at SPURS, swimming at the YMCA, bowling, fishing, Wylie Park and Thunder Road, pontoon rides provided by the Richmond Lake Association, and skiing with the Aqua Addicts, just to name a few.
The program originally began as Camp Courage and later developed into Camp DreamMakers. The vision for such a camp came from the original director, Mrs. Rose Kraft. Rose first had the idea by making an appointment with Steve Graf, CEO of the Y, around 2006. She felt the community was so supportive of the camp that it should be expanded to get more area children involved. Steve was on board with it immediately. It was all about the kids and still is today. “All children should get the opportunity to experience a summer day camp and have fun together,” Rose says.
The Aberdeen Family YMCA acts as program sponsor for Camp DreamMakers. Recently, they received recognition by YMCA-USA for this partnership. “Camp is at the heart of the YMCA mission, putting Christian principles into practice through programs that build a healthy spirit, mind, and body for ALL,” explains Mike Quast, CEO YMCA. Roncalli Elementary School provides a site location for Camp DreamMakers, serving as the staging area for the start of each camp day. “We feel very blessed and honored to be the host site for this camp. It fits perfectly into our mission of instilling Catholic values by nurturing the mind, body, and soul. The building comes alive through the presence of these special souls,” says Tim Weisz, President Aberdeen Catholic School System.
While Aberdeen is extremely generous and provides several in-kind donations to the camp, it is not cheap to run a program where the staff to camper ratio can be as intensive as 1:1. The United Way contributes about a third of the revenues, with the other portion coming from contributions, grants, and program service fees. No camper is turned away for an inability to pay. // — Aaron Shultz & Angie Cleberg of the United Way
To learn more about how you can contribute to Camp DreamMakers through this United Way support program, contact Jess Cihak at 605-216-5768 or the Aberdeen Family YMCA at 605-225-4910.