Greenville Optimists Camp for Persons with Disabilities - Impact Story
Meet Charles Taylor at 72 years young, he has been attending the Greenville Optimist Camp for 30 years. He has become a permanent staple to our summer experience, but we have our suspicions that it is only for the food. Charlie (pictured above) will tell you that his favorite part of camp is to “pick on Bob,” our longtime staff member and camp director. Although we may never get a serious answer out of our good friend Mr. Taylor, Director Bob Hemmingsen knows just how important our camp community is to Charlie and many returning campers like him. “Camp is a special place, and one our campers think about year round. Whose tent will I be in? Will I have the same counselor? What will I be having to eat? When is the talent show? I had to start a rule that you can’t ask me anything about the summer until all the snow has melted. People tell us how important of an experience it is for their family members to come to a place where they can be themselves. To maintain this trust, I arrange multiple trainings for my staff to ensure that all campers feel welcome and safe.”
The Greenville Optimist Camp is situated overlooking Baldwin Lake in Greenville’s Tower Park. As a program of Eight Cap, a local communityaction nonprofit, the camp serves children and adults at risk and those currently enrolled in, or graduated from, the special education system. In 1954 the local Optimist Club made a pledge to the surrounding counties to provide a camping experience for everyone, regardless of their ability to pay or their physical or mental abilities. Through the last 50 years they have kept that promise, reducing the registration fee for campers from $250 to $20 for a week of summer camp activities.
With the help of our staff, campers can enjoy everything a person could want out of a summer campfishing, canoeing, archery, swimming, arts and crafts, nature exploration, a dance, and of course our weekly talent show. During one of this season’s talent shows, two of our new friends Eric and Coty wanted to present what they like about camp with a poem they wrote: “We enjoy making lots of new friends. We enjoy swimming, and the counselors are nice. We love being here for three days without being judged”. Although they are new members to our Optimist Camp family, they have already clearly expressed their appreciation for the impact made on their social experiences. Like Charlie, we hope to have found two more lifelong friends.
Providing a safe place for campers to express themselves through a multitude of activities continues to be the mission of the Greenville Optimist Camp, its employees and community members. This goal can only be accomplished with the understanding and generosity of the local community and donors like yourself. Whether you are a new or continuing donor, we look forward to your support of our community’s growth and exploration. We very much appreciate your generosity and willingness to provide meaningful social experiences for our campers.