Because of our committed camp family and donors, we’re helping an unprecedented number of people in need. This is a tremendous accomplishment and will be absolutely life changing for those we serve at Chingachgook this year. Below, our Summer Camp Director, Jiné Andreozzi, reflects on why she chooses to support our Annual Campaign.
My story in supporting Chingachgook’s Annual Campaign revolves around family, connecting with the family you were born with and expanding the family you choose. Camp to Belong (CTB) has benefited from support through our Annual Campaign for the past 8 years. This program has grown to helping 25 campers living in foster care connect with their biological siblings at Camp, siblings whom they don’t always get to see throughout the year as they are living in separate foster homes. As someone who found a renewed relationship and closeness with my own sister by sharing a Chingachgook experience, this program has always been close to my heart. Camp brings families together through this program but also gives these campers a network of friends that become family. Having CTB join us each year, during first session, gives these kids a chance to define themselves outside their status as a child in foster care and a chance to have a normative childhood experience at summer camp.
All of these benefits I saw played out while working and playing alongside one CTB family this past summer. A family of 5 siblings, all in separate foster homes, who were finally able to have their youngest sibling experience Camp, as he had just turned 7. The oldest siblings were fiercely protective of their youngest sibling and eager to show him the ropes. They made sure he had his life jacket on for swimming before they even thought about getting to swim themselves. They also had a familiarity with our staff, knew their brother’s counselors and encouraged him to get to know those counselors, even though he struggled trusting new adults at school.
Once the youngest sibling was settled in, however, is when the true magic happened. These siblings loved having family time in the morning and then would shout “see ya laters” to their siblings as they eagerly ran to catch up with cabin friends. They would share waves, smiles, and a quick hug when they passed on the super highway while walking to afternoon skill classes. They’d say hi in the dining hall and then happily go back to filling in their counselors and cabin mates on their activities of the day. At night, the oldest siblings would go with a counselor and a CTB volunteer to hug their siblings, say goodnight and tell them they loved them…a simple routine often taken for granted when you see your siblings every day. This was the moment I realized how much of a positive difference we’re making in this family’s life. I can’t express how lucky I am to work at a place that provides these kids that normalcy, even if just for a week. This magic happens because of our annual campaign and I personally give so that we can offer this experience to even more siblings in future summers. I give because I believe in spreading the love and connections every person finds when they become a part of the Chingachgook family.