TRI-STATE REGION – For many children, summer camp is an annual routine representing outdoor recreation, creative activities and campfires under the stars. But for children with special needs, camp can be a profoundly positive, even life-altering event, with memories that last a lifetime.
Creating the possibilities for that experience has been the objective of The Ingeborg A. Biondo Foundation for more than 30 years.
Based in Milford, Pennsylvania, the Biondo Foundation partners with 11 summer camps throughout the region. The newest camp to connect with the program is Dragonfly Forest, which specializes in serving children with autism and special medical needs. While an independent organization, Dragonfly Forest operates on the site of another partner, Camp Speers Eljabar YMCA in Dingmans Ferry, PA.
Nicole Armstrong, Development Coordinator at the Biondo Foundation, and longtime Foundation board member, Arthur Ridley, met with members of the Dragonfly Forest staff last year to learn more about their programs and to see the camp in action.
“They’re doing things right, offering special activities for children with autism,” says Arthur. “We have the same objectives—to provide meaningful services for folks with special needs.”
The rise in cases of autism is astonishing. “When I grew up here, I didn’t know any children with autism,” says Arthur. “In the last 10-15 years, with increased testing, we’re starting to become much more aware of the scope of the problem. It’s clear there will be a great need for services like those offered by Dragonfly Forest and we’re proud to combine our efforts.”
Another partner in the Summer Camp program is Country Ark Farm, based in Milford, PA. Director Donna Ciancitto values the opportunity to have worked with the Foundation for the past 17 years.
“It takes true compassion to make a difference in the lives of people with disabilities,” says Donna. “I, as well as many parents, personally feel that the Biondo Foundation has had a tremendous positive impact on our local specially-abled community. What a true commitment of love and dedication to our community for their sponsorship!”
The Biondo Foundation sent nearly 100 children to camp last year through its Summer Camp Program and is currently accepting applications for the 2017 program through April 30.
Assisting parents with the application process and being able to tell them that their child will have an opportunity for a memorable and rewarding experience attending summer camp is very satisfying for Nicole.
“To read the thank you letters from both the parents and the children, to see the photographs taken at camp and the pictures that are drawn as a thank you—it’s truly rewarding to play even a small role in creating that happiness.”
Having served on the board since its founding, Arthur’s enthusiasm hasn’t diminished. “I love it,” he says. “I love the kids. The satisfaction you get from making a difference in their lives is indescribable. In the past, these children wouldn’t have had the opportunity to experience the simple joys of summer camp. We decided to go in the direction of meeting their needs to make it possible. We’re glad to be a part of it.”
Individuals and organizations can help to give the gift of summer camp to kids with special needs through the Foundation’s Summer Triumphs Campaign. The cost of sending a child to camp ranges between $500 to $1,000 per week. The Foundation welcomes donations of any amount to help deliver the experience of a lifetime to more children.
For more information, contact Nicole at (570) 202-0119 or email firstname.lastname@example.org . To support the Summer Triumphs Campaign, please mail checks to “Summer Triumphs,” PO Box 231, Milford, PA 18337 or contribute online at www.biondofoundation.org.
About the Ingeborg A. Biondo Foundation
The Ingeborg A. Biondo Foundation was created by Joseph R. Biondo, Principal of Biondo Investment Advisors of Milford, PA, as a living memorial to his wife, Ingeborg A. Biondo, whose life ended in 1979 in an automobile accident. Mother, wife, friend and children’s advocate, Inga’s life was defined by her passion for her four children and her desire to help children with special needs.
Initiated to provide camp funding for a few children with physical, neurological or developmental challenges, the program has seen consistent growth and underwrites the cost for many children from the tri-state region of Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey to experience summer camp.
Joe, his wife, Ronnie, and Joe’s son, Joseph P. Biondo, work with the Foundation’s camp committee to create opportunities to bring together typical children and children with special needs in a setting where each can learn about the other.
Regional camps partner with the program to provide simple but satisfying activities like swimming and canoeing in settings where the children experience healthy interactions unlike the isolation often encountered in their daily lives. Increased self-confidence and enhanced social skills are just a few of the life-changing outcomes reported by parents.