A Brief History
Over the years, the idea of a Camp Christopher friends and alumni group was often discussed. Former staff reunions and fundraisers got us thinking about the merits of a formal organization to support this place so dear to our hearts. We just needed one person to take the lead and make it happen.
That person was Irene Wagner Lawrence. Irene’s ties to Christopher were fashioned the moment she walked into the Day Camp in the 1950s. Camping every summer until she was old enough to join staff, this JC of 1969 spent four seasons as a counselor. Irene and her husband Dave became Family Campers for a number of summers. In recent years, Irene’s passion for Camp blossomed with participation in September Song and a return to staff status to guide both the Day Camp and Environmental Education programs.
Irene researched creating a formal organization. Dave was active in Hoban High School’s alumni organization. Gathering information on the mechanics of such groups, and encouraged by Summit County Catholic Charities Community Services administrators, Irene was confident such an enterprise could provide a real boost to Camp Christopher and its programs.
In May 2012, twenty-nine former Christopher counselors and campers met in the Camp Dining Hall and “Friends of Camp Christopher” (FoCC) became a reality. Former Camp director John Litten was designated as interim president until formal elections could take place.
FoCC welcomed all former staff, campers and friends. By late fall of 2013, the organization determined that it would be governed by its members. The role of the officers and board would be to guide and direct, with active support of the membership.
Irene worked hard in 2014 with board member Janet Corey and FoCC member Annie Oakar Henry to establish our nonprofit credentials with 501(c) 3 status. Bylaws and a mission statement were written. It was important to members to maintain a good working relationship with Catholic Charities, but as an independent entity. On November 3, 2014, Friends of Camp Christopher officially received nonprofit status.
With a mission of providing both financial assistance and volunteer hours to Camp and its programs, the young organization made Christopher’s Campership program a priority. Helping campers, particularly those with financial challenges, enjoy the beauty and serenity of Camp became the central focus. To date, the organization has donated over $16,000 to this program.
Looking to help with “brick & mortar” projects, FoCC helped fund the beautiful environmental garden, where the Holy Family totems stood proudly for half a century. In the midst of the eye-catching natural display is a small plaque dedicating the site to the FoCC’s founding members. In 2016, our organization was able to help fund the renovation of Cabin Old James Gibbons, saving the aged structure from the wrecking ball.
In 2017, FoCC realized its most ambitious project in the almost $20,000 restoration of Camp’s flagpole area. Through its Adopt A Brick campaign, Friends of Camp Christopher sold memorial paving bricks to fund a mosaic of Camp memories and tributes in one central place. This past spring, more than 200 “Friends” gathered for the flagpole dedication just before the summer Camp season began. See our page’s full description of the program to get all the details.
FoCC is now an active network of just over 240 members located around the globe. Its officers and board, under current President Jim Sovacool, meet in advance of our quarterly general membership meetings. Camp has generously opened its grounds for our meetings.
Fundraising is an important part of a nonprofit organization’s health. Ways & Means Committee Chair Chaz Gessner has explored many ways to raise money. Several members of our extended Camp family have designated FoCC for bequests and memorial donations. FoCC had it first Dinner/Reverse Raffle in September 2014. The event was so enjoyable and profitable that it quickly was designated “annual.”
As the organization looks for new ways to support Camp Christopher, it strives to improve links to its members. The Membership Committee works hard to keep an updated mailing list for a variety of communication channels. In addition to its FoCC Facebook page, the leadership has sponsored expanding our internet reach with this web site set up under the guidance of former counselor Mike Taylor.
An organization of and for its members, Friends of Camp Christopher promises to be a good steward of its share in the Christopher Spirit.