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Old memories meet new era at Rotary Camp

5/16/2013 - South Side Leader
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By Kally Mavromatis

Juli Cherok-Jacobs, of Barberton, and Jan Henry Bachmann, of Akron, who are shown above, from left, spent time at the Akron Rotary Camp as children with polio. They had the chance to see the changes coming to the camp this week.
NEW FRANKLIN — The Akron Rotary Camp for Children with Special Needs is in the midst of a major $3.5 million makeover.

On May 14, bulldozers were at the site on Rex Lake to begin demolition of the 1950s-era recreation hall to create additional green space for campers. Board members, supporters and even former campers were at the event to help start the process, getting the chance to wield sledgehammers before the bulldozer did its work.

Among those who attended the event were Jan Henry Bachmann, of Akron, and Juli Cherok-Jacobs, of Barberton. The two became friends as children when they attended the camp, Bachmann said.

She added that she spent a week or two at the camp each summer for about 10 years, from 1956 to 1965.

Camp Director Dan Reynolds is pictured above, at right, after he took a ceremonial swing at the old recreation building with a sledgehammer as board members look on.
“I had polio, and I went up until sixth grade to a school that accommodated children with physical disabilities,” Bachmann said. “Other than that, I was the oddball, but when we went to Rotary Camp, we were all the same. We were all ‘normal’; we didn’t have to deal with or worry about or have to consider that we were different than anybody else. That was the neatest thing about it and the most universal.”

Bachmann said she recalled that children at the camp had a range of challenges. Some had cerebral palsy or were deaf or had heart issues.

“We just had a great time,” she said. “We had dances, and the kids who were ambulatory at all, which I was, we would push the wheelchairs of the kids who couldn’t. It didn’t stop us for a minute.”

Nick and Ruthie George and Jack and Vivian Harig, who served a co-chairs for the fundraising campaign, also attended the demolition with Mike Wojno, Akron Rotary Camp board president.

Akron Rotary Camp President Oscar Hunsicker is shown at left as he presents Bonnie Wojno with a rendering of the camp in appreciation for her involvement in the camp renovation project during the May 14 event.
Photo: Lew Stamp
The campaign has made it possible for campers this year to find seven renovated cabins that are accessible, heated and air conditioned; modern and accessible bath facilities that allow campers privacy and independence; and the new great hall that will provide space for a new nature center with animals and indoor space to use for rainy day activities.

Bachmann said she had been out to the camp in recent years as the capital campaign to address the improvements got started. She said she initially had mixed feelings about the demolition work this week.

“It made me sad to think of demolishing the old building because of so many memories, but when we got there, we saw the new one, and it’s jaw-dropping,” she said. “It’s beautiful and accessible. It’s so right to help these children have a great time with ease.”

She commended the Rotary Club for its efforts over the years.

“It’s absolutely amazing what they’ve done and are still doing,” she said.

The Akron Rotary Camp was established in 1924. Since then, it has been the primary project of the Rotary Club of Akron and has been managed by the Akron Area YMCA for more than a decade.

The camp provides children and adults with special needs the chance to participate in traditional camp activities such as games, arts and crafts, canoeing, swimming and campfires.

Donations to the campaign are tax deductible, according to camp officials, and can be sent to Akron Rotary Camp, Capital Campaign, 4460 Rex Lake Dr., Akron, OH 44319. For details, call 330-644-4512 or visit www.sailingthecourse.org or www.gotcamp.org.

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