Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Putting the “camp” in campaign

                Every year, parents inevitably think about summer plans for their children. The questions then become “where will my child go?” and “how will I pay for it?” For Sharonica Williams, the first question was easy to answer. After a successful summer in 2013, her 9 year old son Julian had his heart set on the YM&YWHA of Washington Heights and Inwood’s (The Y) Camp Yomawha. As for the second question, Sharonica and Julian came up with a more creative answer.
                “Julian attended camp Yomawha last summer for the first time and he loved it” says Sharonica, and Julian had his heart set on returning for a full summer. He was eager to participate in some of his favorite camp activities like swimming, nature walks, and more. Julian was especially excited for Camp Yomawha’s new 3-day overnight adventure where day campers get a taste of sleep-away camp life. Unfortunately, a full-summer camp program can be out of reach for a single mom working hard to provide for her family even with generous scholarships, but that wasn’t going to stop them from making Julian’s dream come true. “I became determined to make it happen.” Sharonica began to explore new ways to raise the funds for Julian, and her search led her to crowd-funding. “A colleague told me about Indiegogo so we decided to try it.  I created the campaign through the website and Julian and I created ‘perks’ or incentives to encourage people to donate to his summer camp fund.” Sharonica was skeptical, but she knew it couldn’t hurt. Julian got very excited about the project. “I thought it was a great idea because we have tons of friends!” No one could have predicted what happened next.
                Through social promotion among friends alone, Sharonica was able to send Julian to Camp Yomawha for the entire summer. She was even able to purchase Julian a brand new bathing suit and camp necessities like towels and sunblock. “It exceeded my expectations” said Sharonica. “I was humbled and feel so blessed that people came together to help us.” With the help of community-wide donations and a single private donation of $1,000, Sharonica was able to raise over $4,000 for Julian. You can see the progress Julian made on his campaign here:
                “Julian is clearly a camper that loves camp” says Adam Benmoise, Camp Director at Camp Yomawha.  “You can see it in his face every morning when he runs for the bus, and throughout the day at activities.  The fact that he took this incredible initiative on his own to make this summer happen for him is absolutely remarkable.  It's an incredible example for other campers and staff as to what one individual is capable of when they care enough about something.” 

"As an institution committed to youth engagement, our goal is annually to provide as much in the way of scholarship as possible to our families” said Alan Scher, Managing Director of Youth and Family Services at the Y. “Thanks to the generosity of our funders, we are able to assist many families who are struggling financially to participate in our programming, but there is always unfortunately a limit. We hope Julian’s inspirational story can provide a template for future philanthropic investment from our incredible community."