A History of Happy Campers By Martin Friedrichs, Chairman of the Campership Fund
In 1957 the New Rochelle Campership fund was started to help needy New Rochelle children enjoy a summer camp experience. My mother, Nellie Friedrichs, decided this was just the cause she wanted herself and her five children to support. In June of 1958 our family held a small fundraising fair in our backyard on Lester Place, raising exactly $105.61. By the next year it had become a block event “ a precursor to today's block parties. Only a few years later the entire Beechmont neighborhood was actively involved. In the days before eBay or even tag sales this was the time to clean out your attic and donate your unwanted items to the giant white elephant sale. Many neighbors contributed food, time or talent. Money was raised with bands, puppet shows, raffles, fortune telling, chess tournaments and back yard games. Others just donated their faces, allowing local kids a dreamed about annual opportunity in the ever popular sponge toss event. Over its 10-year run the Lester Place fair was usually the largest single contributor to the Campership Fund. In it final year, in 1967, an astounding 600 neighbors crowded into our backyard, raising over $1,500 dollars“ much of it from nickels, dimes and pennies“ in the days when pennies were still counted.
Almost 50 years later I have found myself as the Chairman of the all volunteer Campership board. Over that time, well over 20,000 New Rochelle children have been giving a summer camp experience, but every year there are more children hoping for this chance.
The Campership Fund is a non-profit community agency, annually raising funds to give hundreds of New Rochelle children a happy and healthy summer experience. It also provides welcome relief to the parents from some of their family, peer and financial stresses. There are day and sleep-away camps, as well as special camps for children with AIDS, asthma and learning disabilities. Unfortunately the need is greater than ever. Find out more at www.campership.org. If you would like to continue New Rochelleâ€™s long tradition of support please send a tax deductible donation to The New Rochelle Campership Fund , PO Box 255, New Rochelle, NY 10804. If you would like to contribute in some other way - or start your own backyard fair - feel free to call me at home (914) 632-8798.