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By: Mathew Roland, BBJ
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Whatcom County businesses and volunteers recently stepped up to help prepare Lions Camp Horizon for their 2019 summer season. Operating in their 45th season, Lions Camp Horizon is a local 501 (c)(3) non-profit that provides recreational opportunities for those with physical and developmental disabilities.
The camp was officially started in 1974, after the Lynden Jaycees recognized a need for recreational experiences for adults with disabilities in the region. In 1986 the camp began being hosted at the former site of the Blaine Air Force Station. Since then the camp has grown to support more than 250 campers. Lions Camp Horizon operates six, week-long, overnight camp sessions during the summer months for those ages 12 and up.
This year a handful of businesses and volunteers came together to provide upgrades and donations to the camp facility. Windermere Real Estate selected Lions Camp Horizon, for the second year in a row, third-year total, as the recipients of their Community Service Day. The donation brought nearly 100 volunteers that tackled a variety of large improvement projects at the camp.
Becki Taylor, director of Windermere Foundation said this year was the first time volunteering for some employees and it was a very meaningful experience to recognize the impact they have on the community. “The work that Lions Camp Horizon does is so great. They are truly an unsung hero in the county,” Taylor said.
“The work that Lions Camp Horizon does is so great. They are truly an unsung here in the county.”
Some of the major improvements included new pavement around the fire-pit to aid those with mobility challenges. The once gravel pit is now surrounded by concrete pavers to improve access for those who use wheelchairs or walkers. A new concrete path was also installed leading to the camp shop which will help with maintenance. Also, camp beds were upgraded with risers to assist campers when getting in and out of bed.
“It’s really nice to see the community coming out to support us,” said Don Webster, Lions Camp Horizon Foundation president. “It is my favorite thing in life beyond my family. I just keep coming back year after year.”
Windermere Real Estate has not been the only group on-site providing support. Volunteers from Americorps National Civilian Community Corps arranged for nine young adults to live at the camp for eight weeks in spring and early summer to help with improvement projects. The young adults have worked for the past few months renovating sidewalks, painting dorms, replacing handrails and providing daily maintenance.
“Helping at Camp Horizon has really opened my eyes to the different ways that we should be accommodating to people with special needs and that is something that I will carry with me after this program,” Americorps volunteer, Taylor Mugford said in an email.
Additional businesses that provided donations included Cowden Gravel & Ready Mix who helped pour concrete for the fire pit and Smith Gardens who donated flowers and shrubs. Anderson Paper, Lil Scoop Bobcat Inc., Mt. Baker Mobile Mixing LLC, Cadman Inc. and Peterson Construction also made contributions.
Doma Brown, 32, has been coming to camp for more years than she can remember. Brown said her favorite part about camp is the counselors. While a majority of the campers come from Whatcom and Skagit County, about 20 percent are from British Columbia, Webster said. Campers also come from Island County, Seattle and Portland.
Developing sustained relationships with the community helps the camp to support programs for a growing roster of campers and their families. This is part of what lead Tera Contezac, executive director, to develop a new sponsorship program for monetary donations that help offset the cost of summer programs. Contezac has lived in Whatcom County since 2008 and has eight years of experience helping adults with disabilities find employment.
Volunteer hours and sponsorships enable the camp staff to focus on implementing new opportunities for campers while preventing the increase in camp fees, Contezac said. “It’s an exciting challenge to have but that also means it’s important for us to have these strong relationships with community members,” she said.