A Letter from Keith

Keith VanDerzee

By Keith VanDerzee, CEO

Dear Camp Friend,

Thank you for being a part of our YMCA Camp Mason Family. I’m writing today to ask for your help, but first (at the risk of embarrassing my teenage son) I have a story to tell.

On August 22nd, 2015, the last day of the last session of summer camp, I walked from my office to pick up my son at the Dining Hall. I walked in to the usual scene of children laughing and crying, hugging each other, signing notebooks, and sharing phone numbers.

Then I saw my son, tears streaming down his face. Now, my son’s quite personable, but a little shy, and never one to make fast-friends easily. It’s one of the reasons we sent him to camp in the first place. So here he was, shedding real tears! Tears of sadness that the amazing two weeks of summer sleepover camp were coming to an end, but also tears of happiness at having made so many marvelous new friends!

As a Dad, I was amazed and pleased; but as a Camp Director I was even more gratified by the reaction those other teenage boys had to my son’s tears. No teasing, no hard time, no cold shoulder. Instead, they embraced his emotions, hoisted him on their shoulders, and carried him, chanting his name like some triumphant hero, and dropped him to his feet near where I was standing. Then each and every one of those boys hugged each other tight. I don’t think anything has made me more proud, as a father or as Camp Director.

I know lots of kids like my own: terrific kids, from decent circumstances, but who may find it hard to make new friends; kids who are super smart, but reluctant to try new things. I also know lots of kids whose circumstances are not so great: kids from broken families; whose Moms or Dads lost their jobs; kids who’ve actually lost a parent. I know kids struggling in school, suffering from bullying, or depression; city kids living in rough neighborhoods, who can’t imagine experiencing the natural world in all its power and glory.

And I know for certain that each one of these kids deserves to come to camp, regardless of their circumstances. Because what kids learn from camp can transform their lives. They learn to trust, in themselves and others. They discover that the world is both bigger and smaller than they thought, as they take in the wide night sky full of stars, and meet people from all over the globe, who are just like them! Most important, they learn not to be afraid, that they can have fun, make friends, and be safe in this magical place called Camp Mason. These life lessons are amazing gifts.

Your contribution to Camp Mason’s 2016 Annual Fund can bring these amazing gifts to a whole summer-full of kids. Last year, Camp helped more than 200 families with $182,189 in financial assistance. Our goal this year is to give out $200,000. A big number for sure, but it can get chipped down to size by donations big and small. If you can send a $5 check, know that 100% goes directly to helping a child. If it’s for $5,000.00, Bravo!, and every penny still goes to the kids.

Summer is fast approaching, and kids need your help now. Please make a gift today and help children experience the world they deserve.

Thank you.