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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

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Golf tourney raises $65,000 for special needs camp

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Camp Winston campers, top, Eli Sandilands, middle row, from left, Jordan McKnight and Jack Dunford, and bottom row, from left, William Cumming, Aedan O’Connor and Jacob Feldt

TORONTO — The Hartley Steinberg Memorial Golf Tournament raised $65,000 to fund subsidies at a camp that serves children living with complex neurological disorders.

Camp Winston, on Sparrow Lake in Muskoka, provides summer sessions and weekend retreats for campers aged seven to 17 who have neurological challenges, such as learning disabilities, autism, Tourette syndrome, obsessive-compulsive disorder, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and fetal alcohol syndrome.

The annual golf tournament, held June 3, at the Angus Glen Golf Club in Markham, Ont., attracted more than 150 guests, and golfers experienced a virtual Camp Winston.

“Camp was recreated on five holes of the golf course, where we ran a specific program from our camp,” said Michele Papadamou, director of philanthropy for the camp. “We teach them about animals and the environment, so we brought animals on the course, and we had… activities that had different sensory touch points that help with children uncomfortable with touching things.”

Following the tournament, guests were entertained by Ben Kettner, who sang and played guitar. Kettner, 17, was diagnosed with Tourette syndrome, ADHD and obsessive-compulsive disorder when he was eight.

Guest speaker Georgia Zadow with her daughter, 11-year-old Maddie Krause, by her side, said, “Maddie is non-verbal and autistic and will be celebrating her fourth summer at Camp Winston… Our lives have been forever changed by Camp Winston.

“Maddie has learned to ride a bike, something I never thought possible. Maddie has learned to brush her teeth… When I tell people that my non-verbal daughter participates in a theatre production every year… they just look at me wide-eyed in amazement.”

The camp was named for Susan Roher’s son, Winston. The “programs enriched his life. We will be forever grateful,” she said.

Elyse Stewart, a former camper who has been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, told The CJN, “I had a difficult time making friends. There is no place like Camp Winston. It is important to me to give back to the community as I return as a first-time summer counsellor and help others learn the skills I learned when I was a camper.”

During dinner, Lily Librach sang I Believe I Can Fly. Lily, who recently celebrated her bat mitzvah, launched the camp’s Kids for Kids campaign.

“I raised over $2,500 to purchase 146 knapsacks and all the stuff to fill them as a gift for each Camp Winston camper,” she said. “My goal was to create awareness for Camp Winston and help make special-needs kids have an even more special summer.”

“Camp is considered a luxury for most kids. For our kids, camp is not a luxury because they learn the vital social and recreational skills that put them on a level playing field with others,” said Denise Fruchter, founder of Camp Winston.

Gerald Enchin, the camp’s co-director and executive director of Pine Bay Foundation, which oversees the administration and financial operation of Camp Winston, said: “We have seen a dramatic shift in these young people when they come into this supportive environment. That is why we are so passionate about our desire to see them continue in perpetuity.”

As well as operating as a summer camp, Camp Winston, founded in 1991, is a teen leadership camp. It offers respite for families, as well as 200 year-round weekend retreats a year for challenged children, siblings, parents and grandparents, including four autism retreats, along with workshops on behaviour-management skills and coping strategies.

The camp has a ratio of two staff for every camper, with 14 teen leadership campers each session. There are 60 staff members in the summer session – 20 per cent of whom were once Camp Winston campers – and four two-week summer sessions for 145 campers.  The camp receives no government funding and relies entirely on donations to fund its operations.

For more information, visit www.campwinston.com.

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