When our biggest supporters, the North Carolina Elks Association, asked us to join them at the State Convention in New Bern, NC, in October, we jumped at the chance to meet more of the fabulous people who support our mission in such a big way.
Volunteer Brooke Wilson represented, and had the chance to address the crowd of nearly 300. Below are her remarks for your reading pleasure.
But more exciting, during the luncheon, the Elks presented Camp Carefree with a HUGE check!!! Yes, there were tears. :) Thank you, thank you, thank you Elks for all your support!!!
CONVENTION ADDRESS, October 28, 2017
"Thank you so much for having me back, Elks.
Imagine you’re expecting a new baby. During a routine visit to the doctor, she tells you that the baby has Spina Bifida, and may never walk on his own.
Imagine your son comes down with a fever, and instead of sending you home with a prescription, the doctor diagnoses him with leukemia.
Imagine playing with your daughter in the backyard one sunny Saturday, when she collapses into a grand mal seizure.
From that day, your life will never be the same. Doctor’s visits, hospital stays and surgeries. Prescriptions, treatments and therapies. Paperwork, insurance companies and financial hardship. All while trying to ensure your kid has a semblance of a normal childhood.
Normalcy is what you both crave. Not spectacular gestures or big events. Just a day where people don’t stare at your son’s bald head. And maybe a friend for your daughter who knows what she’s going through.
This is what Camp Carefree provides. Normalcy, fun and friendship. A place where kids can just be kids. A beautiful farm where your kid is not the only one in a wheelchair. Where during rest time, they can whisper their apprehension about their next surgery and find another kid who’s been there, too.
In 1986, Anne and Gibb Jones dreamed of this place. And on their farm in Stokesdale, they slowly started bringing it to life. First with a large building in the shape of a barn, with bunk beds and a commercial kitchen and a big room to gather. They welcomed about 15 kids with cancer that first year. A break for mom and dad, too, who didn’t have to worry about any cost. This summer we had more than 300 kids over 6 weeks.
300 kids that you gave the opportunity to run and play, to ride horses and swim, to sing silly songs and get sticky s’mores hands, and forget their worries. To scale a climbing wall, soar down a zipline, make friendship bracelets, shoot a bow and arrow, canoe on the lake and make friends for life.
We are of course a non-profit, but you may not know how small and efficiently-run we are. Carefree has no full-time employees. A part-time groundskeeper is our only payroll, with a small group of Core staff and kitchen help earning a nominal stipend in the summer. Our board, medical staff, and camp counselors are all volunteers. Our entire full-year budget is less than $200,000. Fortunately, our major building projects are complete, so now we’re in maintenance-mode. The 30-year-old buildings and facilities are showing their age. This year we dealt with a series of septic issues; last year it was the kitchen equipment. Our largest expense is electricity. These basic functions aren’t sexy to fundraise for, but they’re essential to our mission and keep the grounds safe, functional and in good order.
We raise some money through rentals, with family reunions, church groups and other camp programs enjoying the facility. We host an annual chili cook-off fundraiser, and the local community continues to come through with donations. But it’s you, the Elks of North Carolina, who donate the bulk of our budget year after year.
Thank you, Elks. Your generous gifts, fundraisers and events literally keep Camp Carefree open. On behalf of the board, the volunteers, the families and especially the kids, thank you."
-- Brooke Wilson, Camp Carefree Board member & volunteer