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Rotary Camp completes improvements, upgrades

10/10/2013 - South Side Leader
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By Maria Lindsay

The Akron Rotary Camp for Children with Special Needs has undergone extensive improvements, including the construction of the new Rennick and Dee Andreoli Recreation and Resource Center.
The interior of a cabin shown above.
The Recreation and Resource Center includes a great hall with a fireplace and a wall of windows.
Shown above is the campfire pit behind the Recreation and Resource Center that camp officials also hope to improve should funding allow.
NEW FRANKLIN — A new and improved Akron Rotary Camp for Children with Special Needs is now open for business.

The camp recently celebrated the completion of renovations and new construction, which was made possible through a fundraising campaign launched in April 2010 and headed by Nick and Ruthie George and Jack and Vivian Harig. That effort raised more than $3.5 million, according to Camp Executive Director Dan Reynolds.

“These new facilities give the camp a look and feel that makes children and their families feel welcome and safe,” said Reynolds. “Now we have the facilities to match the excellent programming that we offer.”

The camp offers nine weeks of day and overnight traditional activities for children and young adults, as well as two respite weekends each month for caregivers. Reynolds said 50 percent of their campers have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders, 20 percent to 30 percent have cognitive disabilities or are physically handicapped with a diagnosis such as spina bifida or cerebral palsy, and the rest have mental health disorders. Most children come from Northeast Ohio, but Reynolds said they get children from as far as Ashtabula and Cincinnati.

The camp programs include games, arts and crafts, canoeing, swimming and campfires, and they focus on building social skills, positive redirection, behavioral management, physical exercise and life-long skills, according to Reynolds.

The improvements at the camp were needed to upgrade and replace aging facilities, much of it built in the 1950s, according to Reynolds. The new center is not only more inviting, but more accessible, as the original facility was not Americans with Disabilities Act compliant, according to Mella Castner, director of development. Those improvements include wider doorways, bathroom facilities to accommodate children with special needs and electrical upgrades for motorized wheelchairs.

Among the other improvements are the construction of the new 10,000-square-foot Rennick and Dee Andreoli Recreation and Resource Center, the renovation of the camp’s seven cabins and a new bathhouse, which was built two years ago.

Reynolds explained the center was named after the Andreolis for their significant contributions to improvements at the camp. The center includes offices and conference rooms, a resource room for parents, a great hall, a health center, nature center and a multi-sensory room designed especially for children diagnosed with autism. The former recreation center was razed, and the new center was moved to make room for outdoor activities.

There are also elevators and electrical upgrades for technology and to meet the needs of children with special needs.

Seven cabins at Akron Rotary Camp were refurbished to make them more inviting. The exterior of some of the cabins is shown above.
Photos: Maria Lindsay
The center’s great hall has a large fireplace and a wall of windows looking out onto Rex Lake, as well as space that can be used for indoor programming, useful especially during inclement weather, and for large group gatherings, according to camp officials.

The nature center will offer children at the camp an opportunity to learn about the environment and how to care for it, according to Reynolds. The room has a pond container with turtles, as well as aquariums with lizards and snakes.

Reynolds explained the health center will be able to address minor bumps, bruises and cuts; dispense medications; do breathing treatments; and perform other minor health-related tasks. It also includes a bathroom with a tub — the only one at the facilities, which he said is useful for children who are unable to use the showers in the bathhouse.

The multi-sensory room will provide children with autism with complete control over lighting, sounds and smells to help them control overstimulation, according to Reynolds.

Improvements to the cabins, which can accommodate six to eight campers each, include refurbishing them to transform them from the “institutionalized cement block construction with flat roofs” into warm, wooden structures with new bunk beds, according to Reynolds.

“The original structures were built in the 1950s during a different time and for different kids,” said Reynolds. “The new ones are friendlier and more welcoming.”

In addition, heating, ventilation and air conditioning improvements provide more reliable and even heating and air conditioning, according to camp officials.

“This makes the cabins and facilities more comfortable year-round and helps our kids sleep better,” said Reynolds.

There also were several in-kind donations received for areas such as a paved parking lot and landscaping, according to Reynolds, who added there are two more areas that need improvements should funding allow it. Those areas include the campfire pit and a pavilion with picnic tables that sits near the beach where children swim. Anyone wishing to make a tax-deductible donation to the campaign can visit the website at akronymca.org/RotaryCamp.aspx.

Reynolds said the facility charges $500 for a week of programming, but no child is turned away for an inability to pay. He added that many receive funding assistance from the Summit County Developmental Disabilities Board to attend, and the camp uses donations to help pay for those unable to.

The facility, located at 4460 Rex Lake Drive, also can be rented for corporate retreats and other events, with proceeds used to fund scholarships for children attending camp. For details, call 330-644-4512.

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