“That’s the magic of camp. It gets ahold of your heart and never lets go” – Anonymous
165 enCourage Kids and family members spent a weekend at Camp Pontiac in Copake, New York to celebrate the start of summer. This escape gave our enCourage kids and their families a break from the city air and time to focus on family, friends, and fun.
This year’s 8th annual camp weekend was held in honor of Steve and Nancy Mendelow. Steve, a previous member of the enCourage Kids Board of Directors, sadly passed away last month. His wife Nancy currently serves on the board and continues to devote her time and efforts to our organization. The Mendelow’s have been passionate and dedicated members of our enCourage family over the years and have sponsored several trips to Camp Pontiac through that time, which makes honoring this couple so fitting.
A Weekend Full of Family Fun
As one of our most beloved and anticipated Escapes events, our annual weekend at Camp Pontiac is a getaway for both veterans and newcomers alike. enCourage kid Andrew and mom Milinda could barely contain their excitement as they returned for another fun-filled camp weekend.
“We are so grateful for the experience. We look forward to every year coming and being together again with our friends because we have that bond that continues year after year,” Milinda shared. “We come here and enjoy the togetherness, meeting new friends and families that have the same struggles. It helps us forget about everything that we go through on a day-to-day basis.”
The only thing on the minds of the kids and families as they arrived to camp was the activities in store for a weekend of outdoor fun. Our staff and volunteers greeted campers and helped them settle into their bunks. Kids rushed to the basketball court, enjoying outdoor sports and activities.
Later that night, campers gathered for a campfire, s’mores, and board games. Our Canteen Snack Time, generously sponsored by Log-On, allowed us to fill each tummy with chips, cookies, drinks and more. Smiles and laughter lasted the entire evening, as families formed new friendships.
“It’s great because all the families bond together and you become friends. If you need something somebody will help you,” enCourage mom Colleen explained. “enCourage Kids makes our kids feel really special – we feel more like family then friends.”
And family is truly what our Camp Pontiac escape is all about. The weekend is devoted to family fun and bonding, as many families would not have the opportunity to travel all together outside of our program. Here, families bond in a way that they may not be able to do at home.
“enCourage Kids isn’t just about encouraging the kids, it’s about encouraging the whole family. Every family up here has an issue, and when you come here you are just here,” explained Hal, father of enCourage kid Danielle, who celebrated her 17th birthday during camp this year.
“The kids were so excited to come to see their friends, to zip-line, to do arts and crafts. It’s a time for us to be together and hang out as a family. We look forward to coming every year,” shared Danielle’s mom, Susan.
Reaching New Heights
Saturday morning stole the show for many campers, as some enCourage kids soared through the sky on a zip-line.
Jenny, mother of enCourage kid Nathaniel, said, “It was so nice to be out of the city where the kids could do a zip-line, which for my younger son was huge. He has burst nodes delays and a fear of heights but he climbed up that telephone pole and went on that zip-line and now he can’t stop talking about it!”
The adventure continued as kids enjoyed movies like Inside Out, Starwars, and Zootopia. Children got henna art on their hands by Hibba, a previous enCourage kid, and her mom Salma, who come back each year to volunteer for our organization.
A camp-wide barbeque closed the evening, with families participating in miniature golf, family trivia and an exciting game of Minute 2 Win It. This fun-filled weekend was packed with activities from sand art and other crafts, to arcade and outdoor games.
Like all of our Escapes, this event allows children with health challenges to feel like regular kids in an environment where they are understood. To many of our families, this is the best gift that they could receive.
“Usually you have to explain what it means when your child has a medical issue, but at enCourage Kids everyone is so informed and understanding. You aren’t the outsider – it is like home,” enCourage mom Odete explained.
This beloved event would not be possible without the support and generosity of the Etra Family. Ricky and Kenny Etra, co-owners and directors at Camp Pontiac, invite us back every year so that our families can build new relationships and bond with old friends. The Camp Pontiac staff works tirelessly throughout the weekend to ensure each camper has the best experience possible.
Thank you to our passionate staff and volunteers and the Camp Pontiac team for all of your hard work and dedication leading up to, and throughout, this event. Without the helping hands of our donors, like Log-On and the Mendelow’s, our escapes would not be possible.
Our enCourage kid Lynette said it best herself – “Thank you for helping me. Thank you for giving me an opportunity to get away because many people don’t do that. Thank you for helping us see something, see that there is always a better day ahead and something to look forward to.”
And lastly, a big thank you to the amazing enCourage families that we serve. We had another incredible weekend at Camp Pontiac and hope to see you there next year!