Describe your nonprofit’s mission.
Camp Holiday Trails empowers, encourages, and educates children with chronic illnesses, their families, and healthcare professionals through traditional camp programs aimed at personal growth.
A traditional rustic camp at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Charlottesville VA, Camp Holiday Trails (CHT) incorporated as a nonprofit in 1973 and in 1974 welcomed the first campers. Since that time we have provided over 10,000 kids with special health needs the opportunity to have a positive camp experience.
What need in our community brought about the creation of your nonprofit?
In the mid-1960, three successful pediatricians, Dr. Peter Houck, Dr. Elsa Paulsen and Dr. Robert Selden, all from the University of Virginia, had a vision: a camp for children with special health needs that provided exposure to the outdoor environment with the safety of round the clock medical supervision. Originally, each physician operated their own camp, and early facilities included local schools, churches and the backyard of a hospital. In 1973, with considerable community support and 75 acres of land donated by local property owner, David Goodwin, Holiday Trails, Inc. was founded. The first buildings were built by volunteer hands and by 1974 Camp Holiday Trails became one of the first camps in the country welcoming children with many diverse medical diagnoses. Camping in cabins, fishing with real worms and learning camp songs – the focus no longer on the illness, but on the child.
Our ongoing commitment is to make the decision to send a child to Camp a financially easy one. The more Campers we accept, the more funds we must spend to subsidize the true cost of their camp experience. In recent years, the challenges our families face have been particularly daunting – job loss, insurance costs, skyrocketing prescription medicines. Attending camp is a life-changing experience for our Campers and provides much-needed respite for families and caregivers. The financial path of caring for a child with a long-term or lifelong illness is an uncertain one. CHT is proud to partner with our families to make the camp experience possible without causing financial hardship.
How has your nonprofit made a difference in our community?
For over 40 years, Camp Holiday Trails has served not only children from in and around our area, but each year we have welcomed Counselors from local colleges who come here and go on to become inspired teachers, nurses and doctors. We also welcome many young medical professionals who learn hands on in our Med Korner. At CHT we welcome many local teens who volunteer with our program, and in horsemanship program. Camp Holiday Trails is a place where volunteers belong and return year after year. We aspire to be a welcoming place in the Charlottesville community where everyone feels like they can be themselves and truly belong.
How can community members help you achieve your mission?
Camp Holiday Trails is a welcoming place. Everyone who passes through our gates joins a community with common goals: to embrace nature, celebrate individuality, cherish health and well-being and cultivate a deeper appreciation of what it means to belong to something — to be a part of a caring community. Our community includes volunteers and professionals who come to the camp to share in our mission and find a piece of community. There are many opportunities to intersect with our program and facility. One individual partner, Pete, is a retiree who volunteers to help with odd jobs around camp, whether fixing a leaky faucet or removing brush and fallen tree limbs. Another example is a partner group who comes to camp each year to help us work on trails or clean cabins – and uses their time at camp as a company team-building. Another community partner, The Music Resource Center, unites their after school music program (the teachers) with our Campers (the students) and the result is both groups are better musicians for the experience.
Tell us a story that has come out of your work.
Ana’s story: Ana first started coming to Camp Holiday Trails at age 10, moving from Cabin 1 through Cabin 5 and finally as a Blazer teen leader. Challenged for life by the results of an in utero stroke, Ana exemplifies our motto celebrating the Camper, not the illness. Ana is a fixture at camp talent shows encouraging the younger campers and taking her role as a teen leader at camp seriously. Ana’s family takes comfort in knowing our Med Staff are here to provide care…but we are pretty sure Ana never even notices! In Ana’s own words: “I can go to college because of CHT. It has made me more independent and has given me a whole lot of skills that I will need later in life.”
Learn more about Camp Holiday Trails
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