As I prepare to depart from Camp Albrecht Acres (CAA) in a few short weeks, I look back and reflect on the memories made, skills developed and relationships formed, and I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the past year and a half here at Camp. I want to share just a few of the memories and reasons for gratitude with you:
Music & Sensory Garden
This project was incredibly special to me because it was one of the first projects I really took agency on. While it was a long process, with a wait on the weather to cooperate, it was so satisfying to see the project come together and be able to make a lasting change on the geography at CAA. Knowing that the instruments which now line the paved trails at camp will be there for many years to come, for so many campers to utilize and enjoy, was such a special project to get to be part of.
While I am certain many staffs of nonprofit organizations are close and feel more like a dysfunctional family than a staff, this group certainly does! We celebrate holidays in the office with tacos and party hats, we bring donuts and/or coffee when we stumble in late in the morning, and during breaks we catch up on family life news and play games together. There are office pranks every once in awhile, and items sent home with coworkers "help decorate." This group is here to support our campers, help each other out, and have a great time.
I have seen it before, and I am sure I will again, but the generosity of the Dubuque area community astounds me. Through grants, in-kind donations, financial contributions and volunteer time, there is so much to be grateful for in this community. It has been a privilege to live and work in the Dubuque area. A specific memory of this generosity was the "Night of Celebrating All Abilities" during which we held a live auction. At one point, the auctioneer began an auction game where essentially the last person to donate $40 toward the campership financial aid fund would win a trip, and the sheer volume of funds raised in the next 15 minutes brought me to tears. The evening was not only a successful fundraiser, but was also a great way to get awareness of what we do at camp out to the public.
There's no better reminder of why we work hard all year-round than a hug and smile from a camper. While I rarely worked one-on-one with our campers, I still received many smiles, hugs and 'thank you's from campers who only had to see my staff shirt to feel grateful. It's a humbling experience to know the name on my shirt is enough to elicit a smile - this place is truly something special.
Thanks for the memories, lessons and friendship!
Last Friday CAA participated as a host site for Dubuque Days of Caring, welcoming over 60 generous volunteers from John Deere, Coca-Cola and Alliant Energy to assist with projects around the grounds. We put together this update for you to share out the projects that were completed! CAA is so grateful to the volunteers who came out to Camp, the coordinators of Dubuque Days of Caring, and staff members who coordinated the volunteer efforts. Here's what we updated!
Cassi Banwarth, Director of Programming
To welcome Cassi to the team full time and introduce her to all of our campers, caregivers and supporters we decided to interview her! Cassi has been working for camp in a similar role part-time since December, and has recently transitioned to full time.
How long have you worked for Camp?
"Since 2012. I started as a counselor for 3 summers, had to miss 2 summers, but continued to help with respite weekends throughout the year. I came back last summer as the arts and crafts instructor, and then stayed on after the summer with an internship through my undergraduate program at UNI. Now I am full time in the office as the Director of Programming."
How did you first learn about Camp?
"When I was in high school, I did independent studies with the Special Education Program and had known since I was 11 I wanted to work with people with special needs, so when it came to looking for a summer job, I wanted to find a position in the field where I could have 1:1 experience with persons with special needs. Sherrill is close to my hometown of Dubuque, so I thought it would be a great place for me!"
How has Camp Albrecht Acres helped you in your personal/career development?
"When I first started at Camp I was 18, a Special Education major, and didn't think about having a career in Family Services. I had no experience in personal care needs, or group/residential care; I had only worked with persons with special needs 8am-3pm in school. I was able to learn a more 360 degree view about life with special needs. My time at camp helped me grow up and become independent. At camp I had to make decisions and live independently for the first time. Since beginning my internship in August of 2017, I have been able to see the administrative side of camp, and all the behind-the-scenes work it takes for camp to run smoothly."
What advice to you have for someone who is joining the Albrecht Acres team?
"Be prepared for your life to change. You'll gain friendships with campers and counselors you never imagined. Come in with an open mind and be prepared to learn, lots!"
What are 3 words you'd use to describe CAA?
"Life-changing; Inclusive; Wonderful."
What do you find most challenging about your job? Most rewarding?
"Most challenging- Hiring seasonal staff, because it's hard to find people willing to do this extensive of a job.
Most rewarding- seeing how excited campers get arriving for their week of camp on Sundays! When campers I haven't seen in a few years remember me and parts of my life I've shared with them. It shows how much this one week of camp means to them and how impactful staff at CAA can be."
What is your proudest moment at CAA?
"Getting this full time position. When I was 18 I never would have thought I could make a full time, potentially lifetime position here. This place has taken me in as part of their family and that's what makes me most proud."
Thanks for sharing with us, Cassi, and thanks for all you do for CAA!
An open letter to our Board of Directors: past, present and future:
Dear Board Members,
Thank you. Thank you for giving of your time, talent and treasure to build and support Camp Albrecht Acres for our deserving campers.
Thanks for looking over our financial statements each quarter; we know it can be a drag. It's the small, seemingly insignificant tasks that you perform that allow us to continue to run effective and efficient programming for our campers. We are grateful to have persons who care enough about our campers to spend time on these administrative tasks to ensure the camp season will run smoothly and be funded.
Thank you for entrusting your own loved ones to our care each summer. We love having connections to our campers, and we know it helps to solidify the 'reason why' for many of our board members to personally know campers who attend programming at Albrecht Acres. We are grateful for you sharing your passion for CAA through encouraging your own friends and family members to attend not only camp programs, but our events and fundraisers as well.
Thanks for planning and coordinating many of our biggest fundraisers each year, and dipping into your own bank accounts to support our campers. We are incredibly grateful to our community for supporting our campers, programs and initiatives, and we know many of our programs wouldn't be possible without your support.
Thanks for spreading our mission of inclusion in your homes, workplaces and the community. Your role as Board Members does not end when you walk out of a meeting, or off of Camp grounds. We appreciate all the work you do in our community to be a voice for those who cannot be their own voice, and to promote inclusion in the Dubuque area.
We appreciate you.
~CAA Staff and Campers
"Little by little, a little becomes a lot."
This Tanzanian proverb sums up for us the impact that a whole community making small choices can have on Camp. Little changes in daily actions can grow to create a large impact on our community, and we want to share with you a few ways you can help Camp Albrecht Acres without really even thinking about it!
In under two minutes your Amazon account can be linked to "Amazon Smile"- the EXACT SAME site as Amazon, and Amazon-driven, which takes a portion of the items you purchase and donates it to the cause of your choice. At no cost to you, but two minutes of your time, this is a great way to assist with financial donations to Camp Albrecht Acres without changing your routine. Spend on items you would already be purchasing and feel good about helping the cause you love! While it may not seem like your contribution is making a difference, if every person who reads this blog makes the change we could create massive impact for our campers.
Do you throw your pocket change into a jar when you get home, or the cup holder of your car? Take that change in and donate it to your favorite cause! Pretty simple, but a great way to get that unwanted, cluttered change out of your house and for a good cause!
Another simple computer website change that makes an impact is using the web browser "Goodsearch," which links to the exact same search results you would normally get using the search engine, Bing. This site makes a donation to the charity of your choice simply through your searches. Each search donates 1 penny to your cause; sounds like it's not going to help? Wrong! We search things on the internet multiple times a day, you'll be surprised how quickly dollars start racking up!
5s for A Cause
One simple money-saving technique is to set aside every $5 bill that comes into your hands. That $5 shouldn't make or break your budget, but at the end of the year you'll have a nice chunk of funds to donate to your cause! Knowing you are setting aside the bills for a good cause should make it easier, as well!
These simple ways to fundraise on your own can make a huge difference in the lives of our campers. We thank you for your support, as always, and hope this list helps you find new ways to make a difference for all the causes you enjoy supporting!
Yesterday evening over 130 Dubuque area residents came together to support Camp Albrecht Acres in an incredible display of generosity and support. The evening began with fellowship and light appetizers provided by Cast Iron Skillet catering and entertainment by the talented local band, Sam and the Others. Board members, camp staff, campers, volunteers and people new to Camp altogether spoke about their memories of camp, why they support camp today, and got to know one another.
During the program, three campers spoke to the crowd about their experiences at camp and shared their favorite camp activities, food and memories. We heard about how new friendships are made, that camp food is pretty great, and the swimming pool is a highlight of camp activities! The campers did an amazing job sharing their experiences and reminded everyone in attendance why we do what we do!
There are many reasons to support Camp Albrecht Acres, and while these campers’ stories reminded us of a few, the evening showed there are far more reasons to give to Camp than one might originally think. Many of the persons in attendance are related to, friends with, or know a camper. Having a personal connection with an individual with special needs is a great reason to support camp. Board member, Nicole Gantz shared her story with camp staff and we want to share it with you:
When I learned by newborn baby had Down syndrome, my imagination ran wild. One thought was wondering if Joshua was going to be able to have a “normal” existence; whatever that is really. Would he fit in in society? Would he find his place in life? Would he get to experience everything that other kids and adults had the opportunity to? These are probably common fears of parents with kids with special needs. So, I support Camp Albrecht Acres because they provide kids and adults with special needs the opportunity to have a typical camping experience in a safe, beautiful and caring setting. This camping opportunity gives parents the pride knowing they are providing their children with the most “normal” experience possible.
Nicole’s story gives us some perspective on why we should all consider donating to camp, but just because you might not have a personal connection like Nicole’s doesn’t mean you can’t help further enrich the quality of life of Dubuque area persons with special needs! As Nicole went on to mention, “The camp does not qualify for federal or state funding, so this camp can only exist through the generosity of its donors and supporters and the dependence on grants. Consider donating dollars to the camp to give our fellow special needs friends and family an ultimate camping experience. You’ll be glad you did.”
We are proud to announce that yesterday evening our guests in attendance recognized the importance of this camp for our campers and their families and friends. Through a live auction, a “Fund the Need” camper donation campaign, and the generosity of all who came out, we raised enough to sponsor 66 campers’ registrations this summer!
Camp Albrecht Acres has never turned a camper away due to financial need, and because of our generous community and events like last night, we hope to never have to. Each year Camp Albrecht Acres covers the funding for around $80,000 in camp fees. As we enter our 40th year providing camp opportunities for our campers we are especially grateful for the support we have received from our community. A Night of Celebrating All Abilities was a great way to reflect on that support and was an eye-opening experience for many in attendance.
We are incredibly thankful for the evenings' sponsors, the Board of Directors committee who planned the event, specifically Barb Kurt, Libby Streinz, Nicole Gantz, Angie Mozena and Lori Stewart, the Markham Auction Team, Steeple Square for being a fantastic venue, Sam and the Others for providing entertainment, Cast Iron Skillet for the amazing appetizers, the volunteers present and all those in attendance who supported our campers not only at this event but throughout the years.
This past week, a member of our team attended the "Giving Back and Guiding Forward: Generations of Philanthropy and Leadership" conference held at Loras College. The Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque and the youth philanthropy group, YAPPERS, hosted the conference with over 100 attendees, including high school students, students from Loras College and community leaders. The following are some highlights and takeaways from the event:
Talent and time is just as important to share as treasure.
Especially in a small nonprofit like CAA, volunteers are a lifeline. We are blessed to have a strong volunteer presence and reflecting on our volunteer base we wanted to make sure to relay to you that sharing your talent and time with Camp is just as important as sharing your treasure!
"Go M.A.D."-Erin Engler, DuPaco Community Credit Union
This wonderful phrase was shared with the group by Erin Engler, of DuPaco Community Credit Union. The phrase stands for "go make a difference" and is a great reminder for us all to focus on our mission at Camp Albrecht Acres, and ensure we use the right motivation throughout our day.
"Get Busy"-Ann McDonough, President, McDonough Foundation
In her keynote address, Ann McDonough, President of the McDonough Foundation mentioned multiple times to "get busy." This phrase, while short, is motivation for us as individuals to start solving the problems we see around us in our communities.
Our future is bright.
The high school and college students attending this conference were filled with passion and desire to change our community and the world. With future generations like this, we have no doubt there will be many positive changes coming to Dubuque and the Tri-State area! We look forward to being a part of that change.
Have you heard about our winter respite weekends? If not, this post will give you a glimpse into what we do during our winter respite camps, why they are important for our campers, and why they are important to caregivers and families of our campers. Of course, we think the best way to learn about our respite weekends is to come to them! If you are interested in registering your camper for our February (3-4th) or March (3-4th) respite weekends, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Winter respite weekends are like an intro into our full week-long summer residential camps. We highlight many of the same activities: arts n' crafts, nature n' science, fun n' games, and so much more! Because of the weather we are stuck indoors, but that doesn't stop us from having fun! Each winter respite weekend is based around a theme. February's respite weekend we are focused on Valentine's Day! Campers will make Valentine's cards, play themed Bingo, create their own crystallized hearts to bring home, and even make 'love potions!' Meals for the weekend are provided, and campers get to stay overnight in our main lodge with other campers and counselors.
Campers love to attend winter respite weekends, not only to get out of the house for a weekend vacation, but to interact with our incredible campers and staff. Many of our campers have made lifelong friends with other campers and staff members, and they return throughout the year to maintain and build those relationships. Winter respite weekends help to break up the long monogamous season, and allow for an outing which campers otherwise may not have throughout the winter season. They also provide relief for those struggling with seasonal depression through a change in routine and the interaction with friends in a new place. Respite opportunities for our campers are few and far between during winter months, so these weekends provide much needed time away from home.
Not only do these weekends provide respite for campers, but they also provide much needed rest for caretakers and families. Winter months are long and arduous with limited opportunities for outdoor activities and travel. Camp's Program Director, Cassi Banwarth states, "I think that respite weekends are really beneficial for caregivers and parents. It allows them to have a much needed break, even if it is only for 2 days."
In short, winter respite weekends are a huge benefit to both campers and caregivers, and we hope you will think about registering your camper for a weekend or two this year before our summer camp season reopens! Again, to register please email email@example.com or call 563-552-1771.
Camp Albrecht Acres, with support from the Dubuque Racing Assiciation (DRA) and other local organizations, will install new musical instruments and sensory play areas along their paved trails this spring. This “Outdoor Music and Sensory Garden” will be used by campers at Albrecht Acres for inclusive play and exercise, as well as sensory stimulation for campers with sensory disorders. “The continued support from the DRA enables us to make improvement such as this to camp each year. We are grateful for the contributions made by the DRA which allow us to provide the highest quality of care for our campers,” said Executive Director Eric Veltstra.
Sensory disorders are common among children and adults with mental and physical disorders. Camp Albrecht Acres assists our campers in managing these disorders through our state-of-the-art sensory room, equipped with the latest technology in sensory management, and through the installation of this new Outdoor Music and Sensory Garden which is designed specifically for inclusive play. Each instrument is designed for use by wheelchair, sitting, standing, and any age or ability.
Thanks to the Dubuque Racing Association for their generous grant as the major financial contributor of this project. For more information, please call the office at 563-552-1771 or check out our website at www.albrechtacres.org.
Camp Albrecht Acres is a camp for individuals with special needs, located in Sherrill Iowa. Each summer many individuals of all ages and with a variety of challenges come to spend a week’s vacation at camp. The camp offers many activities including swimming, fishing, hiking, outdoor recreation, fun and games and arts and crafts. Camp Albrecht Acres has camp offered for seven weeks and that is followed by a week long day camp called Camp Bee A Friend. For nine weeks this 40-acre camp is filled with people who are having the time of their life enjoying all that we have to offer.
Camp Albrecht Acres hosted Harvest Fest on Sunday, October 8th. This fundraiser was an all-day event with live music, craft and food vendors, kids games, pumpkin sales, hayrides, and more! The fundraiser was open to the public, and around 500 guests attended the event. Local music acts included: Bryce Reeg, Loras College Jazz Ensemble, and Kristina Castaneda.
The event drew in funds to be used for campership financial aid through food sales, donations from the vendors in attendance, a $5 per car admission, and meat sales from the Dubuque County Champion Steer. Campership financial aid is aid given to campers who qualify directly from Albrecht Acres. Each year, around 60% of campers apply for financial aid. Thanks to events like Harvest Fest, and our generous community, Camp Albrecht Acres is proud to state that we have never turned a camper away based on financial need.
Thank you to our guests, vendors, musicians, and volunteers!
Staff Members of Camp Albrecht Acres update this blog with press releases and information about camp events, camper stories, and community pride. If you have any stories you'd like to add, please email them to firstname.lastname@example.org for review.