Madison “Adopts” Union Beach, Provides Summer Camps for Youth

April 17, 2013

For most kids, summertime is something to look forward to after the long months of winter: a reprieve from school, homework, and being cooped up inside.

But for the kids of Union Beach – most of whom saw their homes destroyed by Hurricane Sandy – this summer will come with some hardship.  Across the town of roughly 6,000, residents continue to face the aftermath of one of New Jersey’s worst natural disasters.  Washed away with their homes were any vacation plans and, worse yet, the formative summer experiences that youth so richly deserve.

All of this was too much for residents in Madison – located roughly 30 miles northwest of Union Beach – who are coming together to help their fellow New Jerseyans.

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Working together, the Borough of Madison and Madison YMCA have “adopted” Union Beach and are working to help the town’s youth attend one-week sleep-away camps.  Led by local volunteer Peg Codey, the coalition of Madisonites is seeking financial support to provide up to 57 camperships.

“All you have to do is drive through Union Beach to understand why this is an important program,” said Codey.  “It’s important to give the children a chance to play, have some fun with other kids, and just get away from the relentless, ongoing effects of Sandy.”

Three YMCA camps will receive the children at a 25% reduced rate: Fairview Lake YMCA in New Jersey, Frost Valley YMCA in New York, and Camp Speers-Eljabar YMCA in Pennsylvania.  The camps have reserved slots specifically for the Union Beach kids.

Many of the campership recipients have never been to summer camp and do not have camping supplies of their own.  To meet this need, each campership will cover the cost of attendance, camping supplies, registration materials, and an allowance for the camp store (each camp has methods for developing personal finance skills).

When Union Beach Schools Superintendent Joe Annibale presented the idea to parents, he was met with overwhelming support.

And in Madison the same kind of support has led the Madison Rotary and other community organizations to get involved, and even spurred the creation of a town-wide garage sale with proceeds going toward funding the YMCA camperships.

“It’s almost become a kid-to-kid program,” says Codey.  “We have Girl Scouts who are collecting supplies for the kids to take to camp.  We have the Chatham Day School that wants to support a campership.  We have children at our own Torey J. Sabatini Elementary School who have sold artwork and donated to Union Beach families.  And we even have a 7 year-old girl who raised funds at her birthday party and a young man who will be volunteering in Union Beach as part of his upcoming Bar Mitzvah.”

The Community Foundation of New Jersey will support the campership program through its Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund.  Other sponsors include Quest Diagnostics and the Thenen Foundation.

“This is a unique collaboration among the towns, the camps, local foundations, and community organizations,” said Nancy Hamilton, Program Officer at the Community Foundation.  “To really reach out to kids who desperately need something new and exciting helps gives the parents peace of mind.  They may not be taking a vacation anytime soon, but they know their kids will at least have some fun this summer.”

Beyond the immediate benefits of fun, sun and recreation, the kids of Union Beach will also see the power of community and citizenship.  After witnessing the devastating strength of Mother Nature, they’ll now see the uncompromising compassion of their friends and neighbors.

Contact CFNJ for more information about sponsoring a YMCA campership.