» To learn more about The Elm Project, please click here.
Caren discovered The Elm Project, when her children (Phil's niece and nephew) were looking to identify a summer camp
experience for underpriviledged children that would duplicate their sleep away camp in Pennsylvania. The family was surprised to
find The Elm Project, that fit so perfectly and fulfilled the foundation's mission statement. As a family, we love what The Elm Project is
doing, and want to spread the word as the camp wishes to grow and flourish in this difficult funding environment.
In 1995, Camp AmeriKids was founded as a residential summer camp for children living with HIV/AIDS. Since then,
we have opened our doors to children with sickle cell disease and have grown into an organization that serves
even more young people. To better encompass the various opportunities available, which includes Camp AmeriKids,
our teen leadership program and a mentor program for young adults, this year we have adopted the name The ELM Project.
ELM stands for Encourage Lead Mentor and represents the tenets we strive for in our programming. This is a big step for us,
driven by the positive growth of our organization and our goal to better serve our youth. So much of this is because
of friends like you who have helped fuel our growth. Our much loved summer camp program will remain Camp AmeriKids.
Read the latest 2015 program report by clicking on the image to the left.
On a hot, overcast Saturday this summer, my daughter Emily and I took the ride up to Warwick, New York to visit camp
while in session. How lucky were we to arrive on CARNIVAL DAY. The smell of popcorn and thoughts of cotton candy
seemed to keep the rain at bay.
From the moment we pulled into this summer haven we were greeted with smiling faces. We met Executive Director Erica
Quiroz who couldn't be more excited to welcome us and share her enthusiasm for camp. We piled onto a golf cart
with Susan Turcotte, Development Director, and took a tour of the grounds. From the bunks to the infirmary to the air
conditioned indoor theatre everything was in excellent condition as well as cheery and comfortable. Emily couldn't
wait to point out that it was much nicer than the expensive sleep away camp that she had gone to for the past 9 years.
When we got to the dining hall, the kids had just finished lunch and the cheering was deafening...these 100 happy kids
were ready for the carnival!
The decorations and game booths were modest, but perfect. We watched as kids waited in line to throw the ring to win
a prize and best of all how friends cheered each other on. We saw a 7 year old girl present her stuffed animal
prize to an adult staff member. He couldn't even remember how many years he had been donating two weeks of his summer
to volunteer at camp.
This diverse group of children, each with a story to tell were having a great time and so were the grown ups who
were mixed right in. No one seemed sad or burdened or sick, here they had a respite from the realities they lived
back home. At camp they can see the stars at night, pet an animal, climb a ropes challenge, learn how to swim and
eat three healthy meals a day all with encouraging peers and adults right at their side. Susan explained the
sadness and tears she encounters the last day of each session.
After face painting, the clouds started to roll in. My stomach was happy from the cotton candy, but more importantly
my heart was filled with pride. The PZ Foundation has been contributing to this fine organization for nine years.
I can't figure out how many smiles that would equate to, but probably a lot.
The Mentor Program, Summer 2015
Also in 2016, the Mentor Program Pilot:
In order to fully support the youth we serve, we recognized the need for additional
year-round programming and developed a one-on-one Mentor program. This past year, we launched a pilot
program that sought to address the needs of our youth who are transitioning into young adulthood
(ages 16-20). We currently have 4 matches enrolled in the program and are having success. The Mentor
program pairs a former camper with a mentor sourced from our camp community of volunteers. A mentor
provides support to a young person who can benefit from the mentor's guidance, friendship and life
experience. Mentors are available all month long to help our youth become confident and productive
young adults and formally meet once a year in New York City. Our experience with this new pilot launch
further strengthens our belief of how crucial it is to continue the connections we have made with these
young people during their time with us at Camp. We find that our positive adult role models provide our
youth guidance and support at a crucial stage in their lives to help them stay on a healthy path.
Kwesi and Melissa (above) 2014 Spring Benefit (below)
2014 Spring Benefit
At the 2014 Spring Benefit, we spoke with two counsellors/former campers, Kwesi and Melissa.
"My favorite thing about camp is making an impact on the children's lives. It's a great feeling knowing
that you can impact someonemake them want to come back to camp each and every year."
"My favorite thing is helping the children do what they believe they can't do. I like to
make them feel empowered."
The mission of Camp AmeriKids is to enhance the lives of youth in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut who are infected with or affected by HIV/AIDS by providing a traditional summer camp experience, year-round skill building, and a supported transition into adulthood. The goals of Camp AmeriKids are to provide respite for the children and their families; to create opportunities for socialization and exploring new interests in a learning environment; and to enhance the children's life skills. Every summer we host 250 children ages 6 - 17 at our campsite in upstate New York. Campers are able to spend time outdoors while engaging in a variety of activities like sports, swimming, drama, poetry, African drums, dance, arts & crafts and more. They can roast marshmallows, catch frogs, and star gaze. Camp AmeriKids is offered entirely free of charge.
In additional to our summer program, Camp AmeriKids also runs a year round Leader-in-Training ("LIT") program. The LIT program was designed in response to the needs of older campers who are "aging out" of the camp program. Our Leaders in Training are 16-17 year old former campers who stay connected to the Camp AmeriKids community through planned monthly cultural days in NYC and weekend teambuilding retreats. During the summer, some LIT program participants attend Camp as Junior Counselors to practice their leadership skills by helping out in the younger cabins. The goals of the program are to continue the promotion of positive self-esteem through life skills and leadership training. We will give adolescents tools to succeed in their ability to set and achieve life goals, and to become active and engaged community members.
Our second sponsored Cultural Day made possible by the PZ Foundation included a trip to the Public Theater in Manhattan on December 8th, 2007. Our LITs saw a play called "The Brothers Size" which touched on issues of family, loyalty between friends, race, ambition and the difficult decisions we must sometime make in order to stay on the "right path".
Read program reports from previous years.